Love & War in the Courtroom

broken justice

 

Jesus, I’m 30 now.

I’ve done a ton of bad things in my life. Mostly just for the sake of being rebellious, but according to society and the law bad things none the less. Seeing as how I’m going to be in court again soon enough, I’m not going to make anyone’s job easier by listing those things publicly in my own online journal.

Let’s just say that I wasn’t the best friend, best boyfriend, best son or best anything for that matter.

Throughout all the trials I’ve been through in this relatively short lifespan, there are only a few absolute truths that I can readily agree to if questioned. I have never intentionally hurt my friends and family members, whether it be physically, mentally, emotionally or any other kinda way. I have never sexually harassed anyone, man or woman.

Well I guess that depends on your definition of the term.

I have never raped anyone, or even thought it was funny or cool or something that might be feasible in the future. I have never condoned child molestation, statutory rape or child pornography, even if some of the people I have met in the past have pushed those boundaries to the limit. There are probably several other things I can’t think of at this very moment but I’ll skip the rest of the history lesson to get to the thing that I am probably most proud of:

I have never, ever ever, ever EVER in my life called the police on anyone I love or care about. In fact I haven’t even called the police or even tried to get in trouble anyone up to and including my worst enemies. Regardless of the situation. It just pains me to think of taking someone else’s dignity and freedom by dialing 9-1-1 at a moment’s notice, in the middle of a stressful situation when I lost my temper or something along those lines. Even given time, I have eventually come to the conclusion that very few people actually deserve to be sent to jail or sent to prison.

You do not deserve to do jail time for doing drugs.

I don’t care if you are smoking a joint with your buddies in the mall parking lot or sniffing some powdered cocaine at a house party, it’s a waste of taxpayer money, a waste of time, and ridiculous to put even the most idiotic junkie in the world in prison. There are tons of drugs floating around every single prison in the US, if not in the world, so if they want to get high badly enough they’re going to get high even while locked up. Why should the rest of the population pay for Crackhead Larry to get a GED, 3 square meals and a college education? Not to mention how the prison system turns relatively normal people into hardened criminals. If they didn’t already know how to get away with burglary and drug trafficking, I promise you they will after 2 years in the slammer.

People should not have to be in imminent danger from a guy holding a pistol to the back of their head before they are allowed to kill them or drive them off their property. If your fearful for your life because a stalker keeps harassing you or because they have just told you in person they are going to chop you up into meat buns and serve you at a restaurant, you should be able to defend yourself with deadly force if necessary.

Of course not everything has access to a gun, especially not in Paranoia, USA. It clearly states that every American citizen has the right to bear arms, I don’t think I can say it much better then that. Are there any exceptions to the rule? Absolutely, the mentally insane and those with ties to foreign terror groups should be kept away from owning dangerous tools, whether that’s a katana or a machine gun. Going back to the deadly force argument, how are you supposed to defend yourself against a guy whose twice your size, ready to hold you down against your will with one hand while putting his dick in your ass without some sort of equalizer?  Or if your a guy, how are you going to defend yourself against psychotic exes and the mugger from the public housing unit down the street with just your wits and luck?

I’m just saying.

I guess the reason I’m even thinking about this is because of my upcoming court date. I’ve talked about it several times in the past but again I can’t bore you with all the details until everything has been settled between me and my ex-fiancee. What I can tell you is that I am being accused of crimes and violations that I did not commit based on unreliable testimony without evidence from someone who can benefit from lying.

Nothing is worse then sending someone you love or care about to jail. Even if there was truth behind something as little as grabbing someone by the wrist or standing in front of their car, it still wouldn’t be right to have them arrested. It makes it that much worse when you lie to the police, who are just out there trying to be captain save-a-hoe and cannot see beyond the headline, “officer saves woman from vile attacker.”

Even if it’s complete bullshit.

I can quite literally think of dozens of other ways to get even with your ex, including blowing up their pets, getting them fired from their job, posting naked pictures of them on the internet, etc. you get the idea. I would in reality rather get stabbed or shot by her rather then have to end up facing her from opposite sides of the court room.

I wonder how many other people out there feel the same way.

When the justice system was first created way back when by our founding forefathers, or even by the British, I’m pretty sure they didn’t have in mind what we have in place today. The purpose of the law, the lawyers, judges, police and prisons that are used today, is to take revenge and damnation out of the hands of the uneducated and unreasonably violent, to back up accusations with evidence and by convincing a jury of your peeps beyond a shadow of a doubt that you and only you could have committed the crime.

You might have stumbled across this little post on Google or some other search engine and be slightly confused with what your reading (or maybe you clicked the link on my facebook/twitter page), but just imagine how many people would have it better if this current system didn’t exist.

That obscenely wealthy defendant on TV that you’ve seen or heard talked about at the office, he’s probably completely fine with things as they stand. He can afford to get off on charges of sexual assault, rape, assault, and kidnapping when he drugged and drove a woman home to his mansion. I’m sure he has little to worry about but his reputation, and certainly won’t do more than a few days behind bars while awaiting his bail to be set.

What about the woman who was raped and is now getting threatening phone calls from a prepaid cell phone about how someone is going to slash open her labia if she testifies in court? Wouldn’t it be easier for her, especially if she knows the name and face of her attacker, to just go out and buy a gun and handle it herself? The law says that’s wrong, and  would happily put her in prison for retaliating against her attacker.

How about the colored (as in Black, Asian, Latino, Eskimo, etc.) defendant from the projects who just happens to look like every other member of their race to the white officer making the arrest. If you think they are even trying to be fair 50% of the time, you are sadly mistaken. Even without evidence, if there is nothing to corroborate the officer’s testimony, if it’s just your word against theirs, your almost certainly going to be found guilty by the judge 9 times out of 10.

None of these people other than the extremely rich benefit much from the current justice system. Add in language barriers, red tape and trouble understanding the phrasing of legal terms and there is next to no chance you can defend yourself, something that happens to often without the resources to fund adequate legal representation.

Oh, there is at least one more group of people that are being currently martyred in the war against sexual assault and domestic violence against women. That would be the men who have been thrown out of their houses or arrested at work based completely on a legal system of protective/restraining/peace orders in which there is no basis of forensic evidence, no burden of proof necessary to incarcerate innocent (ok, maybe not innocent but not guilty in this case) men just trying and failing to keep their girlfriends/fiancees/wives happy.

If I knew how this would play out from the very beginning, if I knew I would end up having to sit on opposing sides of a court room from a woman I loved and cared about and had to listen to her perjure herself in an attempt to take away my life and freedom, I would probably never have gotten into a relationship with her.

She knew that I wasn’t perfect when I first met her (other than my looks and charming smile), and knew that i have skeletons in my closet so I can’t understand how she can suddenly hate me so much that she would do something so vulgar and completely incomprehensible, at least to my way of thinking.

I don’t often regret my actions, but rather than deal with this issue, if given the chance to do it over, I probably would look for another solution such as NOT dating her in the first place.Since that isn’t possible in the real world, I can’t begin to tell you how sick I feel that instead of seeing my friend support me from the bleacher seats in the back, now I’m going to have to look at her eyes filled with hatred sitting next to my enemy, the prosecutor.

Relationships will never be calm and tranquil, based on reason and logic. There will always be at least a part of it that calls for irrational emotions, passion and darker emotions like jealously, rage and hatred. It’s up to us to figure out how to deal with situations better, how to talk things out and at least attempt to understand each other without having to resort to slander and using the law for personal gain.

That’s what I think, at least for the moment.

 

Michael,

Wong_83@Hotmail.com

 

All you need to do is WIN WIN WIN no matter what! [NBA FINALS GAME 7 PREVIEW]

Champions Collide in Game 7

Champions Collide in Game 7

So we’ve come to the very end of the road for the 2013 NBA Finals. Down to one game to decide who’s the better team, the aging San Antonio Spurs led by 36 year old PF Tim Duncan and Coach Gregg Popovich or the Miami Heat led by defending MVP PF LeBron James and Coach Eric Spoelstra.

As much nail biting and anguish as I’ve gone through so far, now that I think of it, I can’t really ask for much more than this. There has been plenty of excitement, overtime games (like last night!), coming back from double digit deficits in the 4th quarter(Spurs, Heat, Warriors), Cinderella stories (Warriors, Nuggets, Chicago, Rockets), and tons of action and captivating moments from any number of NBA All-Stars. Now that everything is just about finished, we’ve got one more game left to preview.

Tomorrow night, Thursday June 20th, 2013 at around 8:30 pm EST, the Heat face the Spurs in a one game winner-take-all death match, at home in Miami, for all the marbles.

I don’t want to hear anything about who’s getting old, or who can’t make big time shots, who’s favored to win by how much, none of that matters anymore. Any team that takes another team to 7 games in the NBA Finals has played their hearts out and should be considered a great team in my book. That being said, only one team is going home with the crown.

Who’s it going to be?

-Keys to Miami Winning the Game:

1. Aggressive, intelligent, gambling, trapping, suffocating defense. This team is younger in age nearly across the board than the Spurs, who are also quite good defensively. The major difference is the athleticism and youth to be able to take shots at knocking balls loose, doubling players in the corners and still being able to get back to interior defense to force the ball back outside.

Too many times this series Miami has been forced into a react-only mode, allowing the extremely intelligent and veteran Spurs to have their pick of who to take the shot at any given moment. They will need to play stifling defense, making blocks here and there and getting offensive rebounds regardless of playing without a true center. Chris ‘Birdman’ Andersen and CB3 will have to focus and bring their A game to fight for every rebound.

2. The King must show the Spurs what they get for attempting to defend him. LeBron James is not just another NBA Superstar. He is not an aging Tim Duncan or even a Tony Parker, meaning he is SUPPOSED to get 25-7-7 a game. That’s nothing out of the ordinary. With Wade being slowed by a knee injury and Bosh being well Bosh at times, the game will swing on his ability to get his teammates open looks, driving through traffic to make tough baskets with touch, and drawing fouls while doing so.

I couldn’t say it more clearly than this:

LeBron James is not Magic Johnson. His entire team plays better when he’s attacking the defense, drawing triple coverage on one side of the basket while making astute, non-lazy passes to the open shooter whether it’s Mike Miller, Ray Allen, or one of the other Big 3. If he starts off as slowly as he has over the past couple games, if he can’t be decisive and quick to allow open looks, he will have to rely on his supernatural ability to make his own shots and put the team on his back. It’s time.

Now all you have to do is win.

3. Cover those Amazing Bench Players! Not enough can be said about those Spurs shooters coming off the bench to give their aging “Big 3” a rest and support. Danny Green and Gary Neal have been playing light’s out throughout this series. There have been times during this series when they were either open or barely covered, and they made Miami pay big time at the end of quarters, on buzzer-beating shots, on way downtown threes and desperation shots. Miami must force them to put the ball on the floor to at least give them something to think about. If they are open or even allowed to make lightly contested jump shots immediately after getting passes, this game will be much more difficult to win.

4. Play like every game might be your last. Tomorrow really will be the last game of the year for both teams win or lose, but this has been a troubling portent of disaster throughout this series, and even back into last series against the Indiana Pacers. Just because you won one game does not mean you can rest on your laurels and play the next one at a leisurely pace.

This kind of thinking led to Miami being defeated by the Dallas Mavericks in year one of the Big 3 Era. They were comforted and secure after leading the Mavericks 2 games to 1, let their foot off the gas pedal, and ended up losing 3 straight games to close out the season. The reason they managed to eliminate the Oklahoma City Thunder last year in 5 games comes down to their ability to shut out distractions, focus on what needs to be done on the court, and trust in their teammates and their own abilities without rest or break.

100% Focus.

No Twitter feeds, no Facebook messages, pokes, or likes, no charity golf tournament or youth basketball league. Not even phone calls or text messages from their girlfriends, wives and family (outside of emergency calls), were allowed, a self-imposed restriction for reasons of (DUH!), WINNING A CHAMPIONSHIP!

There are no more second chances to be given, no mulligans or do-overs for whichever team loses in game 7. Miami is more than capable of taking the Spurs down big time tomorrow night, but it’s going to take everyone playing through pain and suffering for the Big 3 to successfully defend their crown.

~Michael

Wong_83@Hotmail.com

LBJ Dunks on Spurs

[PS: Ok, maybe their championship last year had a little to do with LeBron taking less 3 point shots, working on his inside game with Hakeem Olajuwon in the off season, learning to use his body to shield shots, posting up and playing fundamental “big” basketball. It just didn’t fit with where my flow of thoughts were going a little earlier, so meh, just deal with it. -Mikey]

Basketball, Drinks, Love & Hate – Mikey’s Life: June 18th, 2013

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything since my life just hasn’t felt normal in quite a while. I’m still working at the Red Parrot, I’m still watching the Heat in the NBA Finals, I’m still taking care of Maximus Reed Wong, but other then that it seems like my life hasn’t quite moved much lately. 

Almost as if time isn’t passing as it quickly as it should be. 

Let me start off with those subjects I just talked about in further detail before we continue. 

Starting with the dog first, for those of you who are new to my blog, Maximus Reed, aka. Max, Stinky Max, The Rat, is my nearly 1 year old Rat Terrier. He’s the only dog I’ve ever seen that has a bunny tail that wags so hard that his butt wiggles back and forth when he’s excited about something. He’s happy for the most part but just like me seems to be saddened by something missing in his life. He’s gotten a lot bigger in the past several months, most likely because mom and dad have been feeding him rotisserie chicken and cheese (at just the right temperature and shredded to just the right size btw) all the time. We all try to run with him at least once a day, and i’m trying to get my mile time down to under 7. 

A man has dreams to you know? As long as I’m smoking cigarettes (yes I went back to smoking menthol cigarettes) I doubt I’m going to get it down to under 7 without really pushing myself. I really don’t want to put in to much strenuous cardio at the moment since it’s so hot and humid outside. Luckily Max doesn’t really have sweat glands so he doesn’t stink regardless of how long he runs around.

We both enjoy the time together alone.

It gives me time to think, time to remember pain, time to compose myself so that I can spend another day numbing myself and sealing my memories in a compartment. The rest of the time I choose to force myself to appear happy and unaffected, but it’s really hard when everyone around you spent every moment creating physical reminders for every single memory. Max has even had some bad dreams lately where he seems to be crying out or barking at something in his sleep. It’s fairly disturbing to see a dog running on his side while asleep, especially when his claws are up against your back. If only there was something I could do for him. I’ve tried telling him in the past that he wasn’t abandoned, that he was only a casualty of a war between his parents, an innocent bystander hit by shrapnel.

I’m not sure he understands.

As for Miami, they are currently losing to the San Antonio Spurs 3-2, and tonight is game 6, the first of two finals games at home in Miami. I’m not really worried about them tonight since they almost never lose two post season games in a row, That would set up game 7 with the championship on the line, and this is where my nerves start getting to me.

So what’s the problem Miami? 

It’s not like you don’t have the offensive firepower or the current and 4-time MVP on your team, Lebron James. There are good shooters all over the team that can hit 3-pointers (Ray Allen, Mike Miller, LBJ, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, etc.), as well as multiple big time players that can penetrate to the basket or make the mid-range jump shot as well (Chris Anderson, Norris Cole, Mario Chalmers, Allen, LBJ, Wade, Bosh, etc.). So why do you look so confused when it comes times to make decisions in your half court offense, especially when your coming off a win? Did you somehow think San Antonio, with most of the star players having been a part of at least 3 of the past 4 championships, was going to just beat themselves with mistakes and give you a freebie? The saddest thing is that even with Wade’s knee injury, this team is supposed to be dominant enough to handle any championship-level team.

Instead they find themselves on the brink of elimination against a much less dangerous Spurs team, one without Tim Duncan playing at an MVP level, where Giniobli was averaging 7.5 points per game up until game 5, and Tony Parker their star point guard has been hampered by a hamstring injury. Imagine if this was the 2003 or 2005 Spurs team that swept Lebron’s Cavaliers or the younger team that massacred the Nets 4 games to 1.

If this Heat team can’t step up their game, focus and concentration for 2 games in a row, at home no less, what makes you think they could beat them when they were at their best? LeBron’s legacy is on the line tonight and on Thursday. Wade has 2 championships and a Finals MVP already next to his name. Bosh isn’t really expected to carry this team to victory. (not to mention he hasn’t had a 30 point game this entire postseason).If he wins, he’s 2 and 2 in championships and can finally exorcise the demons surrounding his postseason play versus San Antonio. If he loses he’s 1-3 all-time and his reputation will take a huge blow. This team was the favorite to the win the championship at the start of the playoffs, he will possibly never have a better chance to win another one than with this team built to win championships. 

All we can do is watch and pray.

So what else is new? 

Not much has happened at the restaurant other then building up our Arlington location, oh and we’ve started our regular/VIP customer program with GetPerka.com. I’ve come up with several new drinks over the past couple weeks, such as a Passion fruit Basil Mojito, a Sweet & Sour frozen Mango Margarita, and several Fruit-infused cold Sakes. Other then that I’ve just been putting in the hours, counting the time until I can get off and go home so I can drown myself in reading materials or watching countless animes/reading mangas. 

My grandmother is back in the hospital again, on my father’s side of the family. They live all the way across the country in Los Angeles, so for us to take an emergency trip would be super expensive at the last moment. We talked to dad’s siblings and other family members that live over there and thought maybe she would be better or at least up to waiting several more days before my entire immediate family takes a flight (and time off) across the US. It doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen now, she’s really weak and hasn’t been eating very much. As long as she continues down that path, she has only a very small possibility of ever fully recovering, so I think it’s time we made that trip. Wonderful, what else does God have in store for me?

I finally realize something that I had locked away for a long time prior to being in my past relationship. I know now why I had stopped caring, why I had treated my ex’s and girls in general like useless garbage, cheating on them and barely acknowledging their or my own feelings. It’s so much easier to stay out of the fray, to look down on people with a cool sense of superiority than to let them into your life. That way no one can hurt you. 

Nobody can tell you they love you, and that they are the only one meant for you and turn around and hurt you worse then anyone before. Nobody can look you right in the eyes and tell you they miss and care about you while secretly calling the police on you and hoping you would die or go to jail. If you can treat your dog this way, what else are you capable of? If your so worried about taking pictures of everything and loading them up on your social media sites, how can you turn off everything and not even wonder what has happened to them?

I’ve went out with several girls over the past month or so and tried to forget the past but it seems that everywhere I go there’s another picture frame hidden behind a desk, on the top of a banister or tucked in a box of forgotten memories. Whenever I focus on what I’m feeling  at the moment, I realize that I currently feel nothing but regret and pain. Wouldn’t it have been better if I had never come to this realization at all?

I think I would rather have been stabbed or shot like some of my other ex’s have done to me then for this particular outcome to happen.It’s as if all the colors of spring and summer have been bleached from my surroundings. White looks like Grey, Yellow looks like dull Orange, and black looks even darker. My hands waved in front of my face move in slow-motion and without any enthusiasm, almost as if I was walking in a nightmare but can’t wake myself up. I want to say something or do something that will restore me to full health, but I cannot even face my demons without the threat of police intervention. 

Have I ever told you how much I hate the police in my county? They are some of the most corrupt officials I’ve ever met. 

I haven’t even picked up a piece of jewelry or read a book about jewelry since I was forcefully removed from my own home. I’m not even going to go into the reasons why, suffice it to say that lies were spoken and trust was betrayed for this to occur.

I’m sure I will eventually move on and find some sort of minor happiness in my life, but I doubt I’ll ever be the same. It pains me to smile. I will never fully trust anyone ever again until I have dealt with these demons of my past, I might never even love anyone outside of my family. If this type of person could be corrupted by whatever reasons into actually hurting me intentionally, what hope is there for any normal women to be what they say they are.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my share of faults. I’ve lied (rarely), and been lazy, haven’t taken responsibility or been there when I was supposed too, taken care of everything a man should take care of, and yelled and made a big deal out of things when I should have been there to listen. I’ve hurt people and not been aware of their feelings before, especially those who I claimed to love. But there are certain principles and guidelines that can never be stepped across. Once you’ve done certain things, they cannot be taken back. Words are just words until the police get involved, or until someone snaps and gets physically damaged, and we’re not talking about restraining someone. We’re talking about killing someone with your bare hands, or accidentally shooting them with a gun or stabbing them with a knife. You claim that you’ve been hurt, but how much worse were your failed marriages? 

So which one is it, both cannot be true. Either she lied about her past, and made me spend much of the relationship attempting to repair things she overstated/overreacted to OR it’s true and yet somehow it’s conveniently forgotten all the times I spent planning out dates, buying cards/flowers, cooking her dinner, visiting and being humble and polite to her family, or just flat out spending my waking moments with her. 

What about love? You were barren prior to my touch. It’s just that simple. Nobody loved you or your insecurities, nobody kissed the cut on your lip or the scars on your womb. Nobody appreciated you trying to cook them burnt eggs and spam, or took you out on Valentine’s day. 

“I’ll never forget all the things you’ve done for me. I appreciate everything. I’ll show you I do.”

So where is your memory?

I never thought I’d be so gullible. Me? I was untouchable, infallible, I always had an ace up my sleeve (someone I slept with that I could use as ammo when the inevitable break-up occured). 

Maybe it’s better if I just live in fantasy land, reading and watching anime and living vicariously through the stories of others. Maybe with time I will fade away until I become nothing more than a ghost, feeding off the emotions and memories of others and gaining strength from negative emotions like jealously and hate. 

I’ve done it once, so why can’t it happen again.

 

~Mikey

Wong_83@Hotmail.com

Naruto 627 Manga – Review and Questions

It's Time to Go to WAR!

It’s Time To Go To War

After reading chapter 627, the latest chapter of the Naruto Shippuden Manga, this is all I have to say:

God damnit, why the hell do I have to wait a whole week for the continuation of this chapter?!

That’s 7 days from now at the bare minimum, and that’s if they don’t put in some ridiculous filler chapter or another long character developing back story.

I’m not kidding when I say I’m gonna spend several days typing different combinations of the words Naruto, Manga, and 628 into the Google search box in a pitiful attempt to find any website that can offer any details, or hopefully even the latest chapter.

It’s sad what trying to find this amazing manga/anime prior to 12:00 AM EST on Wednesday can do to an otherwise rational, fully grown man.

When we last left off, Orochimaru, Suigetsu, Jugo and Sasuke Uchiha were still listening to Hashirama Senju’s chapters-long character development story of Madara Uchiha and his own relationship.

After hearing everything that happened, all the sacrifices made to maintain Konoha’s continuity and relative peace, Sasuke is left speechless and confused.

When this conversation began, right after Orochimaru absorbed the Zetsu clones and used Edo Tensei to reanimate the four previous Hokage, it looked like it would once again be Clan Uchiha against the world.

Instead it turns out that Tobirama was just exercising caution, mediating and keeping an eye out for all dangerous, powerful clans that might cause the village harm, rather than just the Uchiha like I had previously thought.

Sasuke comes to the realization that everything the Hokages did, everything his brother and Shishui sacrificed, they did for the benefit all those who call the village a safe haven.

They sacrificed everything, including their lives, to save the future, aka: the children of Konoha village.

Rather then having his hand forced by the village elders, Itachi realized that everything the village stands for was placed in jeopardy when his clansmen began plotting to overthrow the democratically-elected leadership.

Most importantly, Sasuke finally reaches the mental decision that he has a responsibility to help the village endure, just like Itachi, Shishui, the 4 previous Hokages, and Kagami Uchiha all did.

**I have been saying this for a LOOOONG time, Sasuke needs to grow up and mature. His abilities including the Eternal Mangekyo Sharingan he got by taking Itachi’s eyes makes him one of the most powerful shinobi in the Naruto universe, something that he has squandered and used only to settle personal vendettas so far. His family getting slaughtered is nothing out of the ordinary among the ninja villages.

Some names off the top of my head that had it just as bad as him are: Orochimaru (who never knew his parents), Kabuto (orphan), Naruto (has never seen his parents outside of alternate dimensions, genjutsu and sealed in a fuinjutsu), Kimimaro (watched his whole clan get slaughtered), Gaara (father/uncle attempted to assassinate him repeatedly, killed uncle unknowingly), pretty much every other jinchuriki, Kakashi (dad commited suicide), etc.**

Anyways, after much soul-searching involving everything he could remember about his relationship with his older brother, Sasuke finally comes to a decision.

He will not let his brother, and the Leaf, to be wasted over petty quarrels and such a small notion as revenge.

I could hardly believe that he came to this decision after one short conversation with the Hokages, where was the years of depression, rage, anger, and sadness?

Remember that only a few months ago, during and after the 5 Kage summit meeting, he had spoken to Gaara, and then Team 7, over where his destiny was headed.

He even tried to assassinate Sakura, perhaps the only person in the world that was still able to overlook his numerous crimes. Besides Naruto and his boy love of course.

Regardless of how it happened it still happened, and I’m assuming that Sasuke has given up on taking revenge against the entire Ninja world for forcing his brother to give up his career as a genius Konoha ninja, to live life as a hated missing-nin in the employment of Pain and Tobi’s brotherhood of exceptionally evil men, the Akatsuki.

Everyone currently at the Naka shrine is as shocked as I am at this turn of events, and in the case of the 4 Hokages, delighted.

Even Orochimaru, who previously led the Sand & Sound in a combined attack on Konoha, AND who actually caused the 3rd Hokage‘s death, appears to at least accept the need to go to war against Madara & Obito.

That’s pretty much it, if you don’t count a little grandstanding on the part of the Hokage’s using their Hiraishin (Flying Thunder God) technique to each stand on top of their respective stone faces.

Oh, somehow Karin escapes Konoha prison, miraculously, just in time to kick an escaping Suigetsu in the face.

How this happens is a complete mystery to me since she is technically a prisoner of war, under the care of numerous high ranking Leaf ninjas.

Not to mention the fact that the village was previously wiped out by the Ten Tail’s massive tailed beast ball, something that had taken out the allied shinobi forces headquarters, killed countless other ninjas but somehow left one not very strong female ninja alive.

I don’t know.

She immediately tackles Sasuke in a loving embrace, to his very obvious discomfort.

I would feel awkward and uncomfortable as well if I had previously shot the girl through the chest with a Chidori spike, just like Sasuke did.

Oh well.

Other then that seemingly meaningless comic relief moment, this is huge news for Naruto fans around the world.

Sasuke, Orochimaru, the 4 Hokages, and to a lesser extent, Suigetsu, Jugo and Karin are going to war!

As previously stated, I can’t wait for the next chapter to come out.

Hopefully Naruto doesn’t take a week off unexpectedly.

The 4 Hokages 02

~Kyarnboy

Wong_83@Hotmail.com

Tricare’s Lies, Greed, Autism Awareness and You

Autistic ChildrenI’ve been told several times to not bring this subject up, as if speaking out against a major corporation is hazardous to my health. Maybe it is, but I’ve never been the type of person to back down from a fight. Not a fight in which I might be at fault, such as when I was a teenager, and certainly not when I know I’m right. I’m pretty sure I’m in the right this time around, but why don’t you be the judge after hearing what I have to say.

I’ve posted at least one personal, highly opinionated article on the subject of TRICARE (The Bloated Conglomerate Insurance Company responsible for nearly everyone working in, for, and with the US Military)  in the past, and received a tremendous amount of support in response from my blog followers, several writers and even a couple of reporters. This far exceeded my wildest expectations. More importantly, it seems like TRICARE itself noticed.

At least for a few weeks.

To refresh your memory, here is a general summary of what my problem with TRICARE was and still is about. My fiancée, who I hope to marry sometime this year, has worked as a developmental disabilities teacher for about a decade. She has battled against overwhelming odds to help children with Autism and other learning disorders become self-sufficient, capable individuals. TRICARE makes it out to seem like it’s doing everything it can to help those responsible for giving these kids a better life, but in reality is doing everything it POSSIBLY can to deny those hopes and dreams. Here’s why.

If you want the 1% of children age 3-17 in the United States, or somewhere between 1 and 1.5 million people, to live a complete and reasonably satisfying life, you definitely don’t sneak around behind the backs of the extremely specialized workforce involved in the ABA process (That’s short for Applied Behavior Analysis), cutting funding here and there, refusing to pay for treatment, and otherwise making earning a living near-impossible for them. That’s just plain fucked up and wrong, especially when you claim to do the opposite.

Many people don’t know this but many of these ABA therapists are being run out of the business in recent years. This when many high-ranking officials in the military and/or just in general are working hand in hand with numerous charities and benefits to raise money to increase “Autism Awareness.” I can only speak from personal experience but the friends and family members of everyone I’ve talked to who work in the field can all vouch for one thing:

TRICARE is refusing payment for ABA therapy, for whatever reason.

Currently, TRICARE owes my fiancée several months of payment. The case manager, some fat, lazy PoS bitch named LaTrice (spelling? I’m not sure) has repeatedly messed up some authorization letters (putting in the wrong authorization dates, delay in putting out the authorization letter, putting in the wrong CPT code) and since there is really nobody above her, she can basically tell our family to kick rocks. There is nobody making sure those intentional “mistakes” were not reoccuring and no one is making sure that Tricare pays us anything, and because of this we have went several weeks at a time without ANY paycheck at all. Oh, and then when a paycheck finally does come in the mail, it’s for some random piddling amount, as if $300 is going to make everything alright when just our rent and utilities come out to $2000!? Pretty frustrating for anyone, don’t you think?

So after calling different departments over at TRICARE repeatedly for many months, we finally get an answer. According to some corporate PR representative, “Changes have been made, effective a long f_ _ king time ago.” I say this with the utmost snarling sarcasm. BTW, this is without any statement in the mail, or phone call letting us know what changes or when. No emails, effective immediately. According to my fiancée, there has been a change in CPT codes accepted so all of her previous claims are denied. Months of claims have to be resubmitted with another CPT code. It’s just TriCare’s tactic to refuse and/or delay payments to the therapists. Also, BCaBAs (bachelor degree board certified therapists) aren’t even getting paid, PERIOD! However, BCBAs (Master’s level board certified therapists) have not been cut yet. Why would BCaBAs been cut from the program if they are board certified? We can understand that non board certified therapists are not covered. For those like her who have worked their tails off to do something they think will make the world even a little better, people who put all their eggs in the therapy basket, there is nothing we can do but hope and wait that maybe with a ton of prayer, the insurance company might gift her with a paycheck this week.

But enough about the past. Let’s talk about the future of Autism Awareness.

Does anyone feel like the men and women who fight for our country, both at home and abroad, deserve for their disabled children to have treatment denied just because TRICARE is dealing with a lawsuit worth several billion dollars and now just doesn’t feel like it? It’s not our fault that you didn’t take better care of personal information.  It may seem like not a big deal to you, but for us normal Americans with normal jobs, waiting for $10,000 in claims to get paid out can mean the difference between being able to take care of our child and struggling to not max out our credit cards in the meanwhile.

This is where I formally put in a request for help. Neither of us has the time or experience to settle things with TRICARE through filing a lawsuit. We’ve tried calling and emailing any number of officials and corporate employees and it doesn’t seem like anything is getting through. The thing that infuriates me the most, however, is their public stance on therapy:

http://tricare.mil/CoveredServices/BenefitUpdates/Archives/AutismDemo.aspx

Just by reading that, it would seem like everything is hunky dory over here, when in reality nothing could be farther from the truth. How can you claim your furthering the cause of Autism Awareness, or any other learning disability research when even the insurance company of our armed forces is directly and indirectly responsible for numerous “paraprofessionals” exiting the industry? I’ll give you an example so you can better understand the hypocrisy:

The NBA is responsible for paying professional basketball players. If all of a sudden they refused to pay their players, most of them would be forced to quit and do something else for a living instead. When players can no longer make a living by playing basketball, people who would otherwise be learning to play basketball as a child or a teenager with dreams of going pro will decide to go into some other field, perhaps playing football in the NFL or hockey in the NHL.

This is EXACTLY what TRICARE is doing to the highly specialized field of ABA therapy. Nobody is going to get into a field where their star players (board-certified therapists) are treated badly. Would you want to play in the NBA if you couldn’t even pay your rent or put food on the table? Definitely not. The same kids who could grow up to find the cure for Autism, Asperger Syndrome, or Dyslexia if given the right motivation will almost certainly find something else to do that will pay the bills. Hopefully you understand my long-winded example.

If only there was somebody who could understand the gravitas of my situation, like say, Joe Mantegna, aka. Agent Rossi.

I know there is a high probability that someone as important as Mr. Mantegna will never see this article. Even if he were to see this little rant, or if someone mentioned it to him, I have little hope that he would ever respond. Regardless, if he ever were to read this or give me the chance to explain my situation to him, this is what I would say:

“Dear Mr. Mantegna,

I’m a big fan of your character on Criminal Minds, relative and important to me since it might be the only show my mom and I watch at the same time. The other day while I was partially watching an episode while at the same time reading a magazine, I heard your voice and thought it sounded almost like the funny cartoon mob boss on the Simpsons. Anyways, I saw one of your commercials the other day. This one:

At the beginning of your commercial, you say something compelling and instantly relatable. “In order to reach their full potential, children with special needs such as Down’s Syndrome, Autism, Cerebral Palsy, and other developmental disabilities need love, attention, and an education.. just like everyone else.” This sentence stood out to me since I’m currently struggling to understand why my fiancée continues to help military children. I’ve personally seen the good that ABA can do, but don’t know how we can continue if we don’t figure out a way to deal with TRICARE. If the teachers, researchers, therapists, and other educators don’t get paid, pretty soon they will leave the field. Hopefully someone like yourself could raise awareness to the situation, before it becomes untenable. It would be a shame if she could no longer do what she loves to do, working with special needs children, purely for financial reasons. I know that you have a personal interest in the Autism Awareness campaign and hope that you met plenty of wonderful teachers who helped your daughter Mia.

Thanks for taking the time to listen to my self-righteous speech. I know it only affects me indirectly, but I’d like to think I’m the type of person who can use my writing skills to help others. Even if my perspective’s colored, I feel like something needs to be said and/or done to help all the BCBAs and BCABAs affected.”

I gladly await all responses, especially one in particular.

~Michael

reach me at Wong_83@Hotmail.com OR leave a comment at Kyarnboy.Wordpress.com 

Out For the Season: That’s So Amar’e!

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Dear Knicks Fans,

Pardon me but why have you NOT sent this man packing already? Amar’e Stoudemire is in my opinion one of the most overrated and overpaid players in the NBA. He disappears from games when the Knicks need him the most, he’s immature and often throws tantrums when things don’t go his way, and most importantly HE’S INJURY PRONE!!! I’d put more exclamation marks after injury prone but I think everyone already gets my point.

Let me give you a few examples.

I’ve been watching Amar’e play in the league since way back when; I’m talking years ago when he and Steve Nash formed one of the most dangerous duos in the NBA under the offensive guidance of head coach Mike D’Antoni. He became known for his chronic knee problems, among other things that have kept him from playing a full season since.

That’s not completely fair. For the record, here is a list of seasons which resulted in an injury, games missed, and resulting surgery:

2003 – Sprained Left Ankle (27 games missed)

2004 – Inflamed Ankle (2 games missed)

2005 – BOTH Knees Injured (microfracture surgery on left, arthroscopic surgery on right. ALL but 3 games missed)

2007 – Sore Right Knee (3 games missed)

2008 – Partially Torn Iris, Detached Retina (eye surgery, protective goggles. 29 games missed)

2010 – Sprained Right Big Toe, Sprained Left Ankle (combined 4 games missed)

2011 – Bulging Disc, Self-Inflicted Cut (latter sustained during playoffs)

2012 – Left Knee Injury (first 30 games missed), Right Knee Debridement (possibly out 6-8 weeks)

This doesn’t mean this man isn’t a total warrior and competitor. I can’t begin to imagine playing through all the pain and injury this man has, especially while performing at such a high level. His career average of nearly 21 points per game, nearly 8 rebounds and 2 blocks looks even more impressive considering how often he’s been out. That doesn’t change the fact that you can’t help your team if you can’t stay on the court.

Bottom line, Stoudemire has only played start to finish in 3 out of 11 seasons in the NBA. 2 other seasons he only missed a couple of games but that only makes it 5 out of 11 seasons, or a 55% chance he there for a significant amount of time. Wonderful.

Now that he’s 30 years old, all those surgeries and all that cartilage and tissue removed from both his knees is going to start catching up with him. No longer is he dependable as a major cog in New York’s offense. Tyson Chandler, Raymond Felton and a number of other less important (and much, much less expensive) options are playing better basketball around him. All of this adds up to less playing time, and eventually a high probability of Stoudemire getting traded to some other team. So why does this mean so much to me that I’d even take time out of my busy schedule to write an article about him?

First of all, let’s make this abundantly clear. I am NOT a New York Knicks fan. I do not want them to do well, I do not want them to win a championship, and I don’t even want them competitive in the East.

I am first and foremost a Miami Heat fan, and have been since right around the time that Dwayne Wade got drafted out of Marquette. I liked them even more when they won a championship with Shaquille O’Neal, and when they somehow juggled numbers so that they could bring in Chris Bosh and Lebron James, well that was just icing on the cake. I have no emotional attachment to anything that happens north of the Maryland/Virginia area in terms of professional basketball, and therefore shouldn’t care less about Amar’e’s career.

And yet I do. When he’s on his game, he’s one of the best in the NBA. When he’s not hurt, his shooting percentage, scoring, rebounds and blocks per game all consistently rank in the top 10. He makes the game look so easy at times, ever since he started playing basketball at the ripe old age of 14. He won more awards and did more in 2 years of high school than kids who have played and studied the game their entire lives.

Perhaps that’s why he has appeared immature and sullen at times, at heart he’s still a child.  struggling to learn how to act and live without ever really having a strong male role model. I don’t know if I believe in all that “psycho-babble,” but yet it still rings true in at least this one case. It doesn’t excuse him for his irrational temper tantrums, such as when he busted up his hand against the fire extinguisher case after a playoff loss to Miami last season, but it does help fans such as myself to understand the reasoning.

Otherwise, he’s just another overpaid, selfish, conceited, self-absorbed professional ball player. I’m hoping that’s not the case for his team, the fans, and most importantly his sake. The road to an NBA Championship goes through Miami. They’re going to need him to accomplish that.

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Fried Chicken and Me.

Yangnyeom chicken, Korean style fried chicken

Mmm… Fried Chicken.

I LOVE Fried Chicken. I think most people know this about me. I’ve always loved fried chicken, along with fried fish, most likely from growing up around the beautiful city of Baltimore.

The thing that most people don’t realize is that fried chicken, in all its greasy glory, isn’t the same everywhere you go. It’s not even the same across your state. Southern fried chicken has a thicker crust, uses rendered pork fat/lard, and is sometimes served with gravy. Gravy goes with everything in my opinion. Southwestern chicken or South American chicken often has a hint of spices &  pepper. But my favorite chicken is probably ghetto fried chicken, accompanied by waffles, fried lake trout/whiting/catfish, and either hot sauce or mambo sauce.

So what’s the difference between good chicken and bad chicken. KFC is NOT good fried chicken. Actually it’s not even chicken. It’s some sort of genetic cross between a polar bear and a cloned embryo of a chicken. These mutant monster birds are specifically designed to appeal to the largest possible consumer base, and are therefore completely tasteless, unappetizing and disturbingly disproportionate.

Popeye‘s is better than KFC by far but is still made for the the average consumer. They use the same mutant chickens but at least the chicken is usually fresh and juicy. If you really need a fried chicken fix and there isn’t anything else around, I’m not gonna fault you for picking up a 8 or 12 piece box of Popeye’s.

Good chicken is very hard to come by. Whether it’s fried chicken or chicken wings, there are so many horrible variations out there that most people don’t even know the difference anymore. We’re all guilty of eating chicken wings out of a freezer bag or getting a box of greasy over-sauced wings with our pizza delivery. Fried chicken drummies from 7-11 shouldn’t even be considered a food. Unless you’ve spent the time to search through countless online reviews, delivery sites and restaurants, you’ll probably never stumble across the perfect piece of juicy, crispy, golden fried chicken.

Well not anymore! It’s time for you to taste the difference. For your consideration I’ve chosen a few choice locations, all located within 10 min of Columbia, Maryland. If you live somewhere else… too bad, I can’t help you. The best advice I have for you is to imagine the differences I’m about to list, taking the time to remember what things you like and dislike about each variety of delectable poultry. Then try to find something similar in your area. On to the list!

BonChon Chicken: If you haven’t caught on by now, Korean fried chicken is the new KFC. It’s awesome. I thought it was all a gimmick when I first heard about their chicken wings but was an instant devotee the second I bit into a fresh, juicy, crispy, aromatic, perfectly seasoned chicken leg.  Instead of flash frying the meat to death like most other bars/carry-out restaurants, they slowly and carefully cook their wings at a relatively low temperature in order to get the meat to separate from the skin. This process causes the skin to blend with the batter to create a puffy, crispy, slightly greasy crust that protects the meat inside from drying out. This is just in preparation for final cooking. The wings are then lightly dunked in very hot oil before serving, and quickly basted with a brush in either a sweet soy-garlic sauce or a combination chili oil. Amazing.

Either flavor is explosive, without being TOO greasy or making the skin soggy. The delicate puffy skin even manages to stay crispy after being tossed in the refrigerator a couple of times. That’s the biggest thing isn’t it? Don’t you hate when your leftovers become mushy and tasteless after going into the microwave? I do, and these don’t. BonChon is relatively new to our area, with the only location in a 50 mile radius being in a terrible location in Ellicott City. Stuffed in the corner of a lonely strip mall behind the Crab Shanty, next to Sarafino’s.

Try them and let me know what you think. I would easily rate these as the best chicken wings in the DMV.

Chick n’ Friends: If you’re looking for fine dining, this definitely ISN’T it. Located in the Long Reach Village Center area of Columbia, Maryland, this is by far the worst village center in the area. It looks like a vacant strip mall in the middle of Baltimore, with boarded up windows and closed businesses. Your probably still trying to wrap your mind around it so here’s a little help.

Wilde Lake Village Center has tennis courts, indoor swimming pools, the Melting Pot, an organic grocery store, the Bagel Bin, some ghetto Chinese restaurant (Emperor Tso’s Hunan Warrior???), and Omaha Steaks. King’s Contrivance Village Center has an absolutely delicious family-owned Italian restaurant, Rita’s Ice(!), Harris Teeter‘s and a very classy wine/liquor/cigar shop. Harper’s Choice has a family-owned Mexican restaurant (Zapata’s), Safeway, the Athletic Club gym, Papa John’s, a family-owned Afghan-restaurant (Maiwand Kabob), Bank of America and a locally-owned Korean dry cleaners.

Long Reach has nothing of the sort. The sole saving grace of the entire shopping center is Chick ‘n Friends, a place so ghetto the R in Friends stopped working months ago and they haven’t fixed it. So it’s now called Chick ‘n Fiends. Which I think is a reasonable assumption. Basically, the normal clientage of this restaurant include drug dealers, drug addicts, and South American/Asian immigrants.

But who cares what the outside looks like, that’s only thinking skin deep. The true beauty of this little fried chicken shop is the fact that the chicken is melt in your mouth tender, like Colonel Sanders used to make it. The heart and soul of the restaurant is it’s reasonable prices, hand-cut, fresh-as-hell chicken pieces, delicate, flaky fried fish and homemade sides. They make Belgian waffles too, and there are few things as good as a bite of sweet syrupy waffle, mixed with salty greasy broasted chicken.

Ah, the wonders of broasted chicken. Fresh chicken cooked at just the right constant temperature in a Henny Penny with a pressurized cap is the mountain top of fried chicke.n. The holy grail of Friolated Arts. This is known as broasted chicken. When done right, it will not even resemble those awful chain restaurant concoctions, it will crunch beneath your teeth as you bite through the paper-thin delectable skin. Juice will drip off your chin and mouth, and that’s perfectly ok. The aroma of gently seasoned chicken will flood your nostrils as your teeth melt through the steaming meat.

If it sounds like this is too good to be true, you haven’t even tried their sides. There is such a stark comparison between homemade sides and regular packaged crap that you won’t even know there was such a difference until you bite into a mouthful of porky, salty greens or crunchy coleslaw. They even make handmade sweet potato/pumpkin pies, served stark naked and quivering. They also make fresh southern-style sweet tea in a large Styrofoam cup, or by the gallon.

Trust me, there is nothing better in the area. So either park in the parking lot and order it directly from the counter, or now you can actually order this simple good thing and have it delivered by using Carryoutmenu.com. I don’t usually like using this service since they not only charge you 5 dollars a delivery, they also charge 20% to the restaurant in question. Per order. LivingSocial.com’s fees are even worse to the small business, but there are places like Grubhub.com or Delivery.com that give you more bang for your buck. AND a pick-a-card game every few orders that gives away discounts and FREE FOOD!

By now you’ve realized that I am completely insane for food. I have probably ordered every type of possible food in my life, from Ethiopian to Cambodian and everything in between. Nothing is more satisfying than stuff from my mom’s house(a professional chef), or great fried chicken. If you live in the area and you enjoy finding little gems that can rival fine dining, without the price tag, I’m your guy. You can reach me on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/kyarnboy or on Twitter at http://www.Twitter.com/kyarnboy. Feel free to drop me a message anytime.

Onto my final recommendation of the article. Sometimes the places I mentioned will be closed. I’m pretty sure Chick n’ Fiends is closed by 10pm daily, while BonChon stays open til 12am (Until they get their bar license. It’s BYOB Btw.) So what can satisfy that craving for good fried chicken at, let’s say, 3 in the morning?

Royal Farms: Don’t look at me funny. I’m almost positive that if you live within 300 miles of Columbia, there’s gotta be a Royal Farms nearby. Yes, the same place you can buy gas at sometimes, or cigarettes or magazines. Even though there are hundreds of these convenience stores, and even though some convenience store clerk is going to serve you your fried chicken, there’s no denying it. Their chicken is DAMN GOOD.

The key is that they fry their chicken in peanut oil. They have automated Henny Penny-fryers, so even the convenience store clerk can’t fuck up your order.  Don’t even bother wondering if you can get a healthy-version, I promise you there is no such thing. It’s bad for you, but oh so good. For around 12 dollars you can grab an 8 piece chicken with 2 wings, 2 legs, 2 thighs, and you guessed it, 2 breasts.

Did I mention the western fries? These bear no resemblance to those nasty little dry sticks you get from most drive-thrus. They are real potatoes cut into wedges, boiled and finally fried quickly. They use very little batter, so the outside is crispy and aromatic while the inside is hot, starchy and comforting. As long as your calling a Mulligan on your diet for the night, you might as well grab these with a side of gooey cheddar cheese sauce. Eat both the chicken and the western fries while they are still hot, they won’t taste nearly as good after hitting the fridge. Grab a milkshake/smoothie from the Royal Farms-automated milkshake machine and your set. (The ones with fruit flavors are a WHOLE lot healthier than the ones with cookies or smores or candy in them. Just FYI.)

You can’t really beat that in the middle of the night without taking a lot of time to drive to a diner. If you live in my area, you realize there’s only a few choices at that time of night anyways:

Simmies aka: Airiang Hill Cheese Steaks (In the Harper’s Choice area, next to the hospital),

Double-T Diner(15 minutes away in Baltimore County, off Route 40),

Denny’s (In Laurel, off Route 1, or In Arundel Mills, go left off route 1 instead of towards the mall),

or Honey Pig(24/7 Korean BBQ in the Centennial area, also off Route 40).

They all have their merits, especially Simmie’s Ehson’s Special, a 6-inch cheese steak or cheeseburger sub and 5 mambo wings w/ fries. I can’t even begin to tell you all the nights I got drunk as hell after going to the bar/club, and had to make an emergency stop at Simmies for an Ehson’s Special. The mambo sauce is a guarded secret, and good as hell. Simmie stacks paper to the ceiling off those wings. Honey Pig is the best Korean BBQ your going to get at 3am without cooking it yourself. Denny’s is, well, Denny’s, and Double-T has the hugest selection of random food you’ll ever find, and fresh baked goods. All of these are also open 24/7 except Simmies, which I believe closed at 2 or 3am.

For me, however, nothing beats fried chicken, and nothing tops the 3 choices I wrote about above. I’m so sure you will enjoy them that  I would be willing to bet them against fried chicken from any other region of the country. Yes, Bojangles and Church’s Chicken included. There’s only one way you’ll ever know though. Go grab a piece and send me a comment when you do.

~Wong_83@Hotmail.com

The END of Autism Awareness

Are you one of those people who feel a twinge of sympathy when you read/hear about a story on the news about mentally handicapped children? I know I am. I’m constantly seeing commercials on late-night television about the miracles being performed on kids born with some form of genetic trait, struggling to handle a spoon in their cereal. I read about celebrities in gossip magazines… well, I hear about people reading gossip magazines filled with stories about this or that charity supporting people with disabilities. Cancer-research, Leukemia, Down’s Syndrome, Asperger’s Disease, Cerebral Palsy, etc., the list could go on forever.

The point I’m trying to get at is wouldn’t it make you extremely mad to know that people in your own country are trying to cheat the people who teach these handicapped children how to read, write, eat, put on clothes and even just communicate with their parents?

Well that’s exactly what’s going on now. At this very moment, a large majority of the insurance companies supposed to pay for these extremely specialized special-needs teachers are doing exactly the opposite. They take your insurance premiums and are happy to do so, but when it comes time to pay the teachers, they are making up dozens of excuses or reasons why they shouldn’t have to pay them. Does that sound fair?  It’s not like this is the easiest job in the world. Trust me, you and I are not as patient, kind, caring, understanding, constantly frustrated and under-valued as these people are. How do I know this? Maybe your asking yourself, in what way is this author qualified to speak on the subject?

To put it bluntly, my fiancée is a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (ABA therapist). Her name is Joyce, and she is currently one of the foremost experts on children with learning disorders. She has lived and worked in the Maryland/Virginia area( GO DMV!) for basically her entire life, and above all else, gets barely any credit at all for doing a tremendous service to humanity.

If you’re imagining an overweight, middle-aged, primary-school special-ed teacher, you’re not even close to getting it right. She has multiple degree’s in psychology, sociology, child psychology, as well as master’s degrees specializing in behavioral science/early mental development. She was the dorky asian girl in the front of the classroom with straight A’s and a too-big pair of glasses, destined for scientific research. She has published countless papers, has apprenticed dozens of other board-certified therapists, and generally speaking, is the first person I would EVER think of calling if my kid had a learning disability.

She is also being ripped off, so to speak. The worst thing about this whole situation is that this isn’t just some random third-rate insurance company we’re talking about here. She works as an independent contractor for TriCare, aka: the Insurance company that provides for most members of the US Military. We’re talking every branch of the US Armed Services. These are the men and women of our country that are out there everyday, protecting our country from threats both domestic and foreign. Think about it, these brave soldiers and their loyal families will soon be unable to find anyone to take care of their mentally handicapped children.

They wont find anybody because of the hush-hush, recently-adopted policy of TriCare to continually refuse payment to special-needs therapists/educators. This is how it usually works: A potential client with some form of insurance looks online or gets a referral to her by other means. This family calls Joyce and asks if she has any time slot available to help their child/children. Depending on whether or not their insurance covers special-needs education/learning disabilities education, they either have to pay a small co-pay, just like going to the dentist/doctor, or completely out-of-pocket. The cost of these sessions can cost between 100-300 dollars an hour or more, depending on their reputation, experience and level of education or certification.

Depending on the child’s ability to learn, most of these teachers insist on between 5-10 hours a week at minimum. Ask yourself, how many people do you know that can afford to pay that amount of money on their own? Without the help of a “respectable” insurance company, very few people can afford to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars a week on top of their other necessary bills. Children with developmental disabilities CANNOT be cured, regardless of any drugs, surgery or any other modern forms of medicine. The only treatment with proven empirical results is Applied Behavior Analysis, otherwise known as Behavior Therapy.

If insurance companies such as TriCare, United Healthcare and Cigna refuse to pay for ABA therapy, claiming it isn’t a medical necessity, these children with developmental disabilities have a 0% chance of becoming a fully functional individual, capable of independent-living. The goal of all behavioral analysts is to integrate their patients into society, improving the quality of life for their families and teaching them critical life skills. In return for all this hard-work, TriCare has chosen instead to cancel ALL BCaBA(Bachelor-level Behavior Analysts). They have not cut out all BCBA(Master-level Behavior Analysts) work-compensation yet, but they have already begun to delay, deny, or refuse their weekly payments.

For the past 6 months, TriCare has accepted and verified Joyce’s weekly sessions, authorizing her claims and yet refused to pay her out except in the most minimal increments. Their claim is that they have to do “further research” on what is ABA therapy, choosing instead to have them starve, or suffer for no reason whatsoever. Remember that they are still collecting insurance premiums this entire time. Just for example, a colleague of her’s was held without a single payment for 6 whole CONSECUTIVE months! She still contracts part-time for TriCare, but is now forced to take on private clients or risk total financial collapse.

So what good reason could these insurance companies have for refusing to pay these honest, hard-working people? In my opinion, they are just making excuses so that they can line their own pockets. The economy is bad for everyone, but even worse for these analysts who are barely getting paid at all. For all the research, all the success stories, all the good-natured charities working to further the cause…

Nothing, absolutely nothing, is more damaging or damning to Autism Awareness, or developmental disabilities in general, than refusing to pay the researchers and analysts in the field. Hopefully something is done soon, before the US falls behind in yet another category, due to corporate greed, deception and lies.

Usually at this time of the year, my fiancée would be thinking about what presents to buy for her clients and where she would be going for the holidays. This year she has to worry about anxiety-issues, trouble sleeping, and how she’s going to pay the bills. All we can do is hope and pray that my paycheck and her leftover savings will be enough to pay the rent this month. Things would probably be different if a TriCare official had a child with Autism.

Wong_83@Hotmail.com

Bear Grylls: Rugged Hero of Masculinity

Like I said, Bear Grylls is my f&$king Hero.

If anyone would be my role model, a father-figure/brother, it would be the host of Man vs. Wild. If you haven’t seen this show, it’s very entertaining, what with the eating bugs, climbing steep cliffs, jumping out of airplanes, and doing push-ups naked in the Arctic!! He’s a cross between James Bond, Joe Rogan and Hercules. If he were even a bit more masculine, he would start making Terminator movies, become the Governator of California, and cheat on Maria Shriver with a fat, ugly Mexican maid.

But I’m getting off topic(Editor’s Note: Author thinks Schwarzenegger is masculine). Here is a premise of every/any episode of Man vs. Wild:

1. Bear appears on-screen.

2. Bear does backflip out of helicopter, with or without a parachute.

3. Bear lands on the ground/in a lake and immediately starts chopping at rotten stumps, looking for the nastiest insects he can find.

4. Bear proceeds to eat said insects, you can hear the crunching and see legs and pincers poking out of his mouth.

5. Bear says with an English accent, “Taste haarible, but this will give me loads of protein.”

6. Bear says, “Let’s move on then.”  Bear proceeds to randomly pick the hardest route possible, usually including jagged icy cliffs, eighty-foot waterfalls, dangerous class-5 rapids, and jumping over a ravine into a ten-story pine tree. (Note to self, do not do ANY of this if I want to survive. Instead, I should eat tons of fucking coconuts, clams, oysters, plant roots; Basically be lazy as shit like Survivorman.)

7. Bear lights signal fire near his newest shelter. He then immediately dives back into the jungle before anyone has a chance to spot the signal fire. What’s the point of the fire???

8. Bear finds random snake. Bear clubs snake with random stick.

8. Sky opens up and dumps torrential rain on Bear, since that’s what happens in tropical rain-forest. No need to worry because Bear can light a fire anywhere, anytime. Dry firewood and fluffy fire-starter can conveniently be found anywhere in the world if your name is Bear Grylls.

9. Bear puts snake on fire, skin still attached. He says it’s for the nutrients but I don’t believe him. I think he likes eating terrible, rubbery snake-meat. He then proceeds to bite right into the snake, skin, spine and all. He says it tastes terrible but he needs all the calories he can get. In actuality, Bear has no taste buds. At least that’s what I think.

10. Bear puts out campfire and jumps over towering

8. Bear does some Parkour, randomly jumping, flipping, sliding and running through loose and dangerous conditions. He then warns viewers that in a ‘survival situation,’ you must be careful. A sprained/broken ankle or other injury is even more serious than usual in a hostile environment. If that’s true, why are you doing Parkour off the edge of a cliff?

9. At some point, Bear comes along a rapidly flowing river. He tells us not to underestimate fast-flowing jungle/glacial rivers and shortly thereafter jumps into the dangerous river. Sometimes he makes a raft out of tin cans, plastic jugs, rusty sheet metal and shoelaces/jungle vines. Inevitably the raft sinks after a short interlude, leaving him flying through some whitewater rapids… filled with rocky outcroppings.

10. He miraculously survives, regardless of what predicament he is in. Towards the end of the show, regardless of what vast uninhabited area of the world he’s in, Bear suddenly spots a Boat/Plane/Helicopter. He makes another signal fire and gets spotted miraculously, all in a few short minutes.

11. Sometimes he doesn’t get picked up, but instead ends his newest adventure by doing something incredibly dangerous, such as outrunning a train and then jumping on the moving train. Another time he makes a raft, rowing his way across arctic waters, regardless of the fact that his raft is leaking, AND he doesn’t know when or where he might be rescued. Again he’s saved in the nick of time.

If this isn’t crazy enough, on top of everything, on various occasions our valiant host puts himself in needless and exceedingly dangerous situations, just to show the viewers what to do, just in case. Just in case of WHAT?! Do you really need to jump out of an airplane and cut off your parachute, thousands of feet in the air, just so you can show us what to do in case? How about jumping butt naked into a frozen lake, swimming under the ice to another hole while struggling to keep his body from freezing to death.

I know it’s television but I’m pretty sure that in any survival situation, I wont be diving into any deep caves looking for bats & bugs to eat. I’m not paddling through shark infested waters on a flimsy bamboo raft, nor am i going to explore a tiny crack in a glacier that might crush or trap me. I’m not going to rappel down the side of a cliff, hanging from a rock that might fall apart at any second. I’m not doing anything dangerous for that matter.

This is my idea of surviving the wild.

I’m sitting my ass down in the first place I deem relatively safe, with access to food and water. I’m setting up a gigantic signal fire, burning down the entire forest while tossing plastic, rubber, and anything else that’s harmful to the ozone. This will create black smoke that will be seen a few hundred miles away. No trees? I’m melting the polar ice caps, creating a massive rock-slide in the mountains… whatever it takes to get myself noticed, even if it means destroying the environment on a global scale.

Oh and as for the wildlife, I’ll look for something edible from the remains of some pristine rain-forest. All those worms, grasshoppers, beetles and snakes charred well-done, killing off any bacteria that might have caused me to vomit or have diarrhea. If that doesn’t work, I’m finding a large branch, turning it into a spear and killing off anything that moves. This includes any possible endangered species that might be living nearby. If this doesn’t get me noticed by the scientific community, I don’t know what will.

If I was an action hero, I might do things differently. I’m not and neither is the average person watching Man vs. Wild.  Recently, there was a fan special episode called Fans vs. Wild. Two fans were randomly chosen, joining Bear on a trip to the Canadian North. One guy was from New York. The other was Minnesota. They were scared to death and only barely completed a few of the easier tasks Bear does on a weekly basis.If the things he does regularly were necessary, it seems like the fans would have died within a few days at most.

Now that’s masculinity at it’s best. Crazy, reckless but so entertaining to watch.

Now I’d be more like Les Stroud from the show Survivorman. Sometimes he eats bugs and does dangerous things, but usually he just sits around a campfire, sleeping a lot and cooking whatever supplies are easy to find. Those vegetable roots and leaves seem a lot more palatable than live scorpions or tarantulas. Instead, Les just plays his harmonica and a tiny guitar on occasion. He probably wouldn’t be able to self-rescue but who the hell cares? His chances of dying of hypothermia, starvation, drowning, getting stung by dangerous insects, injected with venom or falling off the side of a mountain are greatly reduced. Isn’t that more important than looking cool in the wild?

I sure think so.

Here’s my solution, listen carefully. Don’t go to dangerous places by yourself. Make sure you have a guide if you go to the rain-forest. If you have to go somewhere dangerous, alone, make sure you bring plenty of supplies. This includes a very sharp knife, a FEW full water bottles. When packing what you believe is necessary, double it. Add things you can easily carry that you might even think aren’t necessary. Bring lots of non-perishable food like granola bars, peanut butter and spam. Bring something to start fires and even a cheap sleeping bag. This may seem like overkill but trust me, little things like this are the difference between life and death in the wilderness. Even a pint of liquor or a bag of candy can revitalize your morale/spirits.

Actually, just don’t go into the wild. I’d rather watch it on television at home where I’m relatively safe from harm. If I ever feel the need to go camping in the wild, I’ll set up a tent in the backyard. With s’mores.

MSW, Wong_83@hotmail.com

Things you Might Have Missed During the Baltimore/Texas Game.

 

Even though I wanted to watch every second of this first round match-up, I was busy getting the urine scared out of my bladder. Instead of my usual run-on rhetoric, I figured I’d make this entry short and sweet.

Just about every sports announcer, MLB expert, Tom, Dick and Larry predicted the All-Powerful Texas Rangers would squeeze the life out of the Baltimore Orioles. The Rangers had the advantage in starting pitching, with Yu Darvish pitching for them. Supposedly, Darvish is the hottest thing to come from Japan since Hello Kitty and colorful hair.

The Texans were also supposed to have the advantage in hitting, slugging, and on-base percentage. The have Josh Hamilton! The same Josh Hamilton who crushed four home-runs in a game against Baltimore earlier in the season. They also have Adrian Beltre, as well as a bunch of other hitters; Actually it seems like everybody on their roster has a .300 batting average.. Maybe it’s just me? The Orioles hit home-runs, and not much else. The birds have Adam Jones, Chris Davis, The immortal Jim Thome and the on-and-off again Matt Weiters. Manny Machado seems to have some potential but he’s a rookie, I don’t know what kind of impact he’ll have in his first ever playoff-game.

As if they needed anymore help, they are playing in Arlington, the Rangers home turf and a VERY hitter-friendly baseball stadium. That’s just wonderful, I mean these guys are coming off back-to-back appearances in the World Series! That doesn’t seem very fair, especially since both teams have the same record. Sure we lost a bunch of games head-to-head with them. Whatever, I’m just saying. About the only thing the Orioles had going for them was the bullpen. Basically it seemed like the stars were all aligned against the East Coast underdog.

Well now I’m watching the game. The MLB Playoffs Wildcard Round started around 8:35 EST. It’s currently the bottom of the 9th inning, and this is what I’ve noticed so far:

1. Joe Saunders pitched a phenomenal 5 and 2/3rd innings. He gave up one run, more than a couple hits but always pitched his way out of trouble.

2. Saunders outplayed Yu Darvish, contrary to popular belief. Even though Darvish struck out more hitters, he also gave up more runs(one unearned) AND more hits. So much for Saunders not being able to handle Rangers stadium.

3. While listening to the radio on the way home from the Maze of the Undead, Firecrackers, and Heads on Meat Hooks, the ESPN announcer kept saying “Bloop single,” whenever the Orioles batters hit a single. Biased much?

4. The Orioles looked seasoned, more than even the home team. It must have been all the one-run and overtime games they won, I mean that puts a lot of pressure on a young, unproven team.

5. Texas had 9 hits, including having the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning.  For all those hits, they got one total run. Author very happy.

6. Orioles Manager Buck Showalter completely out-coached Ron Washington, the talented manager of the Rangers. The pitching change at the end of the 5th inning, going from Saunders to Darren O’Day was crucial in keeping Texas from rallying.

7. Does anyone else think O’Day has one of the weirdest looking pitches? It’s not too far from being a women’s softball pitch.

8. The Orioles made a few unusual fielding errors tonight. That could have lost them the game if the Rangers were hitting better tonight. Luckily they weren’t, especially Josh Hamilton.

9. Speaking of Hamilton, he wasn’t just bad. He was REALLY bad. He looked indecisive at the plate, even lost at times. His strikeouts and pop-ups had a visible effect on the morale in the Texas dugout.

10. The road team played solid defense throughout the game, forcing three double-plays on the team from Arlington.

11. How exciting was this single-elimination playoff game?! It seemed like the stakes were a lot higher than usual, similar to a playoff game in the NFL. Usually the Rangers would have just been able to shrug it off as a bad start. Instead, their fate is sealed with another run given up in the 7th inning.

12. Likewise, i really felt like the MLB umpires are not quite used to making calls in a sudden-death situation. A bad call isn’t nearly as bad when the team looking at the short end of the stick has a chance to even things up later.

13. ORIOLES WIN!!! ORIOLES WIN!!! FUCK YOU to Josh Hamilton & the Rest of the Texas Rangers!

14. A small percentage of people predicted the O’s would win at LEAST 85 games.. Including the author. I’d now like to take this moment to say, “Naah-Naah, I told you so.”

15. If the supremely dangerous Texas Rangers didn’t rattle this team, playing in their first playoff game in 16 years, not much else will. In a single-elimination, winner-takes-all contest no less.

16. Texas vs. Baltimore regular season winning percentage, 70%+. Texas vs. Baltimore playoffs winning percentage, 0%.

17. The Baltimore Orioles join the Baltimore Ravens as playoff-caliber sports teams. We’ve been patiently awaiting for this day all those long, lonely nights. Between the Orioles, the Washington Nationals, the Ravens, the Washington Redskins,the Baltimore Blast, and  the Washington Capitals, this area is finally living up to expectations. We’re still waiting on John Wall, Nene, Trevor Ariza and the rest of the Washington Wizards to step up. Shout-out to the DMV, as well as I-495, I-295 and the Baltimore-Washington Area.

17. You Can’t Spell Orioles Without… OLE!!! Bullfighting is so appropriate for the beating we put on Texas.

Parting Thoughts: Reynolds and Macho Machado HAVE to hit better if we expect to go deep into the 2012 MLB Playoffs. We showed a ton of heart tonight on the green grass of Texas Stadium. We’re going to need every bit of heart, hitting and patience to make it through the second-round. Next up, those damn Yankees.

MSW, Wong_83@hotmail.com

The Author has been a Orioles fan since 1995, the first time his family brought him to Camden Yards. He became a Ravens fan that first year after the Browns left Cleveland for Baltimore. In the NBA, he’s a Heat/Wizards fan, in the MLB, a Capitals fan. His main passion, however, lies with the NFL and MLB. He hahandss lived in the Baltimore-Washington Area for the past 2 decades, with his fiancee, adopted daughter and Maximus the Rat Terrier.

 

Women’s Jewelry for the Modern Man

Excuse me ma’am, does that ring come in men’s sizes?

Ever since I was little, I KNEW there was something different about me. Since a young age, I often found myself looking into the wrong glass display case. Instead of looking at stuff I thought was acceptable for a young man such as myself to wear, I spent hours staring longingly at the colorful women’s jewelry on every long, exhausting trip to the mall with my mother. As I grew older, after collecting gems for most of my formative years, I started to realize that most men were fated to end up wearing a particular style of jewelry, depending on race, sexual orientation and choice of profession. These are just a few that I’ve seen over the years:

Thick gold chains = Hairy as Hell, Fat Italians

Long white gold/platinum necklaces w/diamonds(Bling-Bling) = Rappers, Fake Thugs

Hemp & bead necklaces = Potheads or Drug Addicts

Dog-tag necklaces = Military Men

Spiky dog collars or black chokers = Punk Rocker

Dragon’s claw rings and necklaces with superhero emblems = 40-Year Old Virgin

Any jewelry with colored gemstones = Homosexual

Where did this come from?

When did man start to believe that a REAL man only wears plain metal jewelry? Looking fresh is looking fresh, regardless of what it is. Maybe a man shouldn’t wear a pearl necklace, or wearing flowers in his hair, putting glitter on his skin or wearing lipstick, but jewelry? I’ve always been a fan of antique design, a period of our history when we put time and effort and care into making hand-crafted objects to idolize and cherish. To stare at again and again and remember every detail and pattern that took hundreds of hours of hammering and carving to make.

Just as an example, take the time to actually look at a hand-forged Katana(Japanese sword)from the 18th and 19th century http://www.ebay.com/itm/Japanese-Samurai-Sword-Katana-Signed-MINAMOTO-KIYOMARO-August-1851-AD-/230847822537?pt=Asian_Antiques&hash=item35bf9a3ac9.  You can’t possibly imagine how much time went into making a sword like that one. What makes the craftsmanship so fascinating is the knowledge that this piece of forged carbon steel was just as important as food, clothing, water or shelter. During most of Japan’s history, the craftsmanship of a sword was only as good as it’s ability to hold an edge, to defend its owner from marauding bandits, rapists and worse. If your engagement ring got a crack, it wouldn’t break during battle and get you and your family killed.

This is just talking about the sword blade alone. After countless long days standing in front of a blistering hot furnace, what craftsman today would take the time to forge a beautifully made scabbard(sword sheath), wrap the hilt(handle) in stingray skin leather and engrave everything in cranes, dragons, cherry blossoms, etc., all by HAND?? Practically no one. These days, just about everything is mass-produced on factory assembly lines, stamped from huge sheets of metal into uniform shape and size. Started by machines and finished by machines. Even when human hands still cut the gems and hammer the metal, the level of skill and commitment necessary to make family heirlooms has nearly disappeared.

.

Rather than complain all day and do nothing about the source of the problem, I’ve decided to let my hands do the talking. I’ve begun the long and arduous process of designing my own hand-crafted jewelry. It really bothers me that the things I’m looking for in a piece of jewelry, especially MEN’S jewelry, don’t exist or exist but cost an obscene amount of money, so I’ll try to make it myself. I’m doing this or a few simple reasons:

1. Jewelry made by hand will ALWAYS be better than jewelry made by factories and assembly lines. There are simply too many techniques, passed down from master to student, that cannot be reproduced by a machine. Some things are better left to machines that can make an exact duplicate, every single time.When making parts for a stealth fighter-jet or a computer that keeps my heart ticking, I’ll take the machine every time. When selecting a piece of jewelry that symbolizes my eternal love for my wife, I’ll take the master craftsman.

2. Most jewelry made today meets far less-exacting standards. There are a lot more people living on the earth today than ever before. Instead of millions, there are billions of people, each wanting goods and services. A single machine can make countless more pieces of jewelry than even a handful of men. The jewelry they make have a lot less craftsmanship, but a combination of mass-production and lower prices can collectively earn more money. After you die and your family is auctioning off your estate, if your jewelry can only be melted down and sold as scrap metal by weight, the craftsmanship probably isn’t very good.

3. I think it’s WAY past time someone re-introduce the pleasure of enjoying colored gemstones to the modern man. There is absolutely nothing wrong with women wearing emeralds, rubies, sapphires, opals, tanzanite, garnet and topaz; I just think it would be a better world if men didn’t constantly worry someone was going to call them a homosexual every time they wear someone other than colorless diamonds. Not that chocolate or black diamonds are worthless, it’s just most of their value depends on commercials & advertising. Trust me when I tell you that wearing imperial peach topaz earrings will in no way make you less attractive to women; More likely they will shout: “Here’s a courageous man, comfortable with his masculinity and willing to show it by wearing expensive peach/pink earrings.” My jewelry will set my customers apart from the crowd.

4. It’s probably not as hard as you think to create beautiful, interesting, one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces that my customers will want to eventually pass down to their children and grandchildren. All it takes is a little dedication, a little creativity and a fair amount of technical skill. To me, the most important aspect of jewelry-making is that you make your items with passion, ensuring the fact that a little piece of my soul remains inside every  finished work. I think that sounds like something worth sharing.

5. Go ahead and plug “Handmade Jewelry” into your favorite search engine. Look at a bunch of jewelry-selling websites. I don’t care which one, it probably won’t matter, most of them look the same anyway. The only difference are the prices, I think most of the time they are just making it up along the way. Would it be so hard to stop making the same old rings and earrings, devoid of any originality? Jewelry packed with the same generic synthetic-gemstones whether you stop by Kay, Wal-Mart or Costco. These cheap knock-offs are no replacement for the colored gems found in nature.

6. Here’s a big problem I have with men’s jewelry… especially those ugly ass wedding rings! Not only do companies push cheap, tiny, nearly worthless diamonds on us(note: they’re called Melee diamonds), they charge exorbitant prices for a piece of jewelry that sometimes isn’t worth even 10% of its retail price. A bulky, tasteless gold ring with half a carat worth of diamonds sometimes cost over $1500 on average. The tiny diamonds aren’t even usually of good quality, frequently being tinted yellow/brown and being visibly flawed. How do you get VISIBLE flaws in a diamond 1/100th of a carat( 0.02 grams)??? Especially in a ring that’s mass-produced, with barely a whisper of filigree-work, engraving or general craftsmanship.

Big jewelry store chains like Jared the Galleria, Kay, Littman, Shaw and Helzberg diamonds are fleecing the public, padding they’re collective bottom-line by selling wholesale jewelry at retail prices, taking advantage of the ignorance and stupidity of the average consumer. It’s up to me and the other small local businesses to give them a better option. By creating a market for hand-crafted goods with beautiful colored gemstones, we will be helping them save money for more important things, like honeymoon vacations or buying a car.

At least this is what I hope for, changes I will strive to bring about in the jewelry business. People are willing to shell out their hard-earned income on expensive jewelry, as long as it’s tasteful, classy and most importantly, they don’t feel instant buyer’s remorse for being duped or hoodwinked. Why pay retail price for jewelry when it’s usually not worth the metal & gemstones it’s made from.

~MSW, Wong_83@hotmail.com

Looking for more from the author? Check out his Facebook page @ https://www.facebook.com/kyarnboy.

Also, take a look at some of his other articles @ https://kyarnboy.wordpress.com/

Dear NFL: Can you please, please bring back the Refs?

On so many occasions in the past, I, like other casual fans of football, found myself screaming at the television screen until I lost my voice. I yelled and screamed, kicked over furniture, drank heavily to console myself, sobbed, pleaded and ultimately made a complete fool of myself. How could they miss the call?! It’s not like they’re staring at the play through a flickering, freezing TV screen like I am, I mean they’re right on the field with the players! Are you BLIND?! Everyone in the room, including the completely hammered unconscious man sitting in the recliner that I’ve never met before, can see that it was the other team who started pushing and throwing punches and whatnot, but somehow your throwing a yellow flag at the guy on my team? I don’t know how old the man in the corner is, what he does for a living or whether he’s a child molester or a serial killer, but I’m 110% certain that he’d do a much better job calling the game then the zebras on the playing field.

Or at least that’s what I used to think. Like one of those bedtime stories my parents used to tell me, it seems there’s a moral to the story, karma has come back with a brutal vengeance to bite me in the rear. Those idiots who couldn’t possibly call a game any worse have been replaced by a group of shopping mall employees, or perhaps rag-wearing drug abusing vagabonds. Yes, you heard me correctly, vagabonds, the guys wearing filthy ripped rags, shuffling slowly across the street from their dumpster homes to the street corner they beg from. Instead of reading the rules handbook they were given on their first day of employment, these faceless drifters must have ripped out the pages and used them in a trashcan fire to help them stay warm.

Maybe they aren’t actual vagabonds. These “replacement officials” are probably trying to officiate these games as best they can. They probably aren’t out there trying to destroy the game I love and yet, that’s exactly what they’re doing. It’s not their fault that they haven’t been educated in the strange and complex language of the NFL rulebook, they were just the bottom of the officiating barrel, what was leftover after the team owners decided they would rather line their pockets with even more money than to give the real officiating crews a pay raise. As a fan of the game, someone who has nothing but time and interest invested, it seems to me that the team owners have more than enough money. If it takes a couple hundred thousand dollars or even a couple million dollars to settle this ridiculous negotiation, so be it.

Let me put it this way, the contract for even a mediocre player on an average team would cost at least as much, not to mention it would be paid for by a single team under a salary cap.

Any pay raise or benefits package for the officiating crews would be paid for by the combined might of all 32 team owners, each of who has a net worth over a billion dollars. Are you fucking kidding me? Jerry Jones and Dan Synder, owners of the Dallas Cowboys & the Washington Redskins respectively, have the 1st and 2nd highest net worth of any sports team in the world. THE WORLD! Under the circumstances, when the officiating has begun to affect the product put on the field, it wouldn’t be out of the question to pay the referees anything they asked for, new cars, private airplanes, millions of dollars, you name it.

Good officiating is part of the package we the fans are paying to see. When the officiating is actually causing serious reverberations across the country, such as in the Green Bay/Seattle game last night, it should send up a serious red flag to the owners and league offices. Now it’s affecting the product they are selling by causing us to have serious doubts over the validity of the win-loss columns. Maybe it will or maybe it won’t change the playoff fortunes of the two teams involved last night, either way I’m completely sure this isn’t the last time we hear about it. If my team failed to reach the playoffs due to a single horribly called game, I would probably riot, running through the night with a blazing torch and a glittering machete screaming like a maniac. [Note: For legal purposes, none of this would actually happen.]

So please, please, pay those damn referees! Am I going to boycott football games like certain television personalities say I should? Probably not. Will I still buy tickets and watch certain must-see games at the stadium? Absolutely. Is the NFL still more entertaining than watching professional baseball or hockey? Yes. How about basketball? Maybe. Either way, the owners can afford it, the referees deserve it, and the fans expect it. When the rules are enforced correctly, or at least more correctly, we as fans should not be able to point out how blatantly wrong the referees are.

Privately, we might question whether it was fair for them to throw a flag on our team when the play before that someone on the other team had done exactly the same thing, but at least we should feel reasonably comfortable that the referees aren’t taking bribes from the mob to throw the game [Note: Over a billion dollars in sports betting changed hands last night]. Just a couple of weeks ago, the NFL almost let a Seahawks fan officiate a regular season Seahawks game! Think about that for a second. Do you really believe that you could be impartial if asked to call a game for your favorite team? What if you were nearly bankrupt and had to take care of your wife and children?

It makes me suddenly grateful that someone else has to make the calls on the field. Well, most of the time. Hopefully the owners and the referees will soon shake hands, sing Kumbaya around the campfire and get back to making difficult rulings that are only tempered by the failings and limitations of being human. Otherwise, someone far more unstable than me is going to make this decision for them real soon.

Michael, Wong_83@hotmail.com

Teams Michael identifies with: The Baltimore Ravens (NFL), Baltimore Orioles (MLB), Miami Heat (NBA), Washington Capitals (NHL), Maryland Terrapins (NCAA) and sometimes the Philadelphia Eagles (NFL).  

How about a Little Noise for the Baltimore Orioles!!

I am, when compared to an average fan, a bleeds orange, die hard Orioles fan. I have loved them ever since I was a toddler, even before I knew about Cal Ripken Jr. and his record-setting career. I don’t even think it was a choice, seeing as how I was born at Johns Hopkins, like all of 5 blocks away from Camden Yards. If your not from the area, which I’ll generously set as somewhere in the state of Maryland, you probably have no idea how fiercely we protect anything about our city. This goes double for our sports teams, the Orioles, the Ravens and heck, even the Blast. There is not a person in this world that I wouldn’t humiliate, destroy, insult or shank if it meant one more win for one of my beloved teams.

Ok, Maybe that’s going a little too far. Just as a disclaimer for legal purposes, ignore the words, “destroy” and “shank.” Damn right I’m passionate, it’s been 15 years since our last winning season and every year it’s been the same old thing. Either a). They start off the season going something like 15-3 and end up being 21 games out of a playoff spot by the end of the year, or b). They stink up South Baltimore until right around the All-Star break and then all of a sudden play over .500 baseball the rest of the way. This has the dual-effect of causing us to wonder WHY we couldn’t do that through an entire season and basically tossing us a shriveled tasteless bone to chew on. We’d say, “At least the latter-half of the season looked promising, hopefully next year.,,”

Well No Longer! Somehow someway we have for the most part put together a season of dreams. As of tonight, 9/7/12, after shelling the New York Yankees(77-60), ie: our most hated rival, with 6, count ’em, 6 home-runs, not only are we 17 games over .500 but the Orioles are also tied with the Yankees for the best record  in the AL East! Now how about we actually make some noise??

To the people in the national media, our beloved Orioles are nothing but an aberrant statistic. They point to their fancy run differentials and the fact that our team as a whole is hitting only .247, tied for 21st in the league. How many times have I read articles about the Pirates, Angels or especially Tampa Bay(75-62) stating how well positioned these teams were to earn a playoff spot based on their expensive free-agents and strong starting pitching?

All I’ve heard about the hard-charging Orioles is that our team won’t last and that we’re just getting lucky in close ball games. Everyone knows about our record in games decided by 1 run but look at our record in games decided by 2 runs, which is still a respectable 46-20. Our main hitters, as in Mark Reynolds, Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Matt Weiters, have all posted superior numbers over the past 32 or so games. Even some of our supplementary players, such as Ryan Flaherty, Chris Davis, JJ Hardy and star rookie 3rd baseman Manny Machado are all currently hitting near .280. You want run differential? Over the past month, the Orioles are +45 and are averaging 4.88 runs/game while giving up only 3.47runs/game. Those numbers only get better if you look at the past two months. Reynolds alone has 7 HR in the past 2 weeks while tonight Jones hit his 28th HR of year.

To get this kind of production and this many wins out of this piecemeal band of brothers, Manager Buck Showalter must have sold his soul to the Devil or turned into a Bokor, otherwise known as an evil practitioner of Voodoo. All jokes aside, even if we don’t win the AL East he still has my vote for Manager of the Year, if only for taking 50 different mismatched players and turning them into a team that’s currently 18 games over .500.

With the best record in all of baseball over the month of August, this gritty Orioles team has already exceeded all expectations and have quieted all critics and doubters. Quietly outplaying teams that spend twice as much money as the Orioles, our team has managed to continue to stack wins by getting solid run support behind dependable if not great starting pitching. The bullpen has been for the most part sensational and somehow we have managed to play well against everyone. Well, everyone except for the Texans.

Most of these statistics you can find on every Tom, Dick and Harry’s blog or sports website. What seems to be missing is the pulse of excitement running through the veins of every Orioles fan in a 100 mile radius of Baltimore. It’s been so long since the Orioles last winning season that an entire generation of kids and teenagers have never been to a playoff game. For the first time since the mid 90s, the coming of Autumn foretells possible playoff victory… and not just for the Baltimore Ravens.

The only thing even close to bringing home the Lombardi Trophy to Baltimore would be to win the World Series. It’s funny how my expectations have changed over the season, from having a .500 season to having a winning season, to earning a wildcard spot to becoming first in the division and finally winning some playoff games. What’s to say this already magical season can’t end with a World Series victory? I know, I know, it seems far fetched but there are some solid statistics behind that line of reasoning.

I’m aware that, at least logically, the playoffs in professional baseball aren’t quite as random as in professional football. As in professional basketball, MLB playoff format is in a “best of” series format. Instead of having to win one game to advance, you have to win 2 of 3 or even 3 of 5 games. Even so, the playoffs aren’t about who had the best regular season record, it’s about who becomes hot at the right time, exactly like the other American professional sports. The Texas Rangers(82-55) had the best regular season record last season but we’re defeated by the St. Louis Cardinals(74-63), by the skin of their teeth. Even so, there are only 4 other teams in baseball with a better record than the Orioles, only one being in the American League. Add in the fact that the Washington Nationals, with the best record in baseball THIS season, are shutting down their ace in the hole pitcher Stephen Strasburg this Friday and the Orioles probably have as good a shot as anyone to make it to the World Series!

I mean think about it for a second. The usually dangerous Boston Red Sox(63-75) are close to firing their manager, The Yankees are 20-26 since July 18th as injuries and weak hitting have conspired to leave our hated rival to the North nearly impotent. If EVER there was a chance for the Orioles to make a play for the AL East pennant it would be right now.

Despite the 13th lowest payroll in MLB, despite the fact that our team is primarily made up of misfits, washed-up free agents and home-grown talent, despite every critic, talking head and newspaper outside of Baltimore writing us off, we have continued to out-think and out-play teams with far more resources and more recognizable players. We aren’t looking for hand-outs and slowly but surely our fans have trickled back into Camden Yards(43,000+ showed up tonight!). If we continue to take care of business by winning the games we’re supposed to win, the national media will be forced to take us seriously. Until then, how about all of us who live in Maryland or Delaware, Virginia and West Virginia, make as much noise as possible. Already they hear us in New York.

~Michael, Wong_83@hotmail.com

Michael and most of his friends have been tailgating and going to games at both Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium since before the current Camden Yards was built. There was a time when it seemed his group of friends were the only ones sitting in the bleachers, drinking foamy beer and eating cheap hot dogs while cheering every time a Yankee or Red Sox player got injured.

The Actual and Relative Values of a Diamond

Have you ever bought a diamond? If your over the age of 21, chances are you have bought one or know someone who has bought one. I distinctly remember the first time I purchased a diamond ring. As a young lad, jittery with nervous energy, I tried to pay off some nefarious deed done to one of my earliest girlfriends with a piece of shiny jewelry… purchased from the local mall. The first time you enter one of those fancy stores like Jared or Kay, the first thing you realize but won’t quite accept is that you are hopelessly outmatched. You browse the display cases like you know exactly what your looking for but in reality you most likely end up buying something that’s both affordable and should look OK on her hand/neck/etc. So what’s the true value and whats just the relative value of the glittering bauble you are thinking about getting? I’ve done the research. Over the past few months I have looked through a mind-boggling amount of data on these otherwise worthless amounts of concentrated Carbon. Like everyone else, the reasons are pretty obvious: I am searching for that “perfect” ring for my beautiful fiancee. I know, pretty stupid considering the opening statements of this article. The problem with logically reasoning is exactly it’s definition. It’s logical. The logical part of my brain that knows this is completely unrelated to the part that thinks it’s perfectly normal to spend thousands of dollars on what amounts to a rock set in a piece of metal. That would be the subconscious. So let’s take a look at the facts. Originally, diamonds and the other precious and semi-precious jewels were used to decorate works of art, garments and even weaponry. They refract light and are pleasing to the eye, they’re relatively rare when compared to other materials and most importantly they are hard. This may not seem that important now that we have plastic and metal that wont deteriorate or corrode for hundreds of years. Things to cherish and that could be pass on to loved ones, pleasing even when first dug from the earth. As we advanced, so did cutting and polishing techniques. What better way to symbolize royal status and religion than materials that last forever? When regular people couldn’t even afford to feed and clothe themselves on a regular basis, what better to separate classes than jeweled swords and gold thread.

So let’s get on to the point. In MY opinion, what is real and what is fake?

In my humble opinion, a diamond is relatively worthless. It has absolutely NO nutrients, and if people weren’t so damn worried about status and being brighter than their peers, it would probably not be worth the time and labor that goes into cutting and shining the things to begin with. It certainly wouldn’t be worth thousands of dollars per karat. Not to me. If anything, you could probably relate it’s value to that of a pretty painting. When done right, it’s beautiful, there’s no denying that. The way light seems to come from within the stones- cut into squares, round brilliants, sometimes flashing hearts and arrows-could definitely be considered a work of art. So in some ways, each individual stone is like a sculpture or a carving.. except this carving will last hopefully forever.

What about all that hokum about how a “diamond is forever?” Or how a diamond is a symbol of love? Even though I know this isn’t true, as said before, it’s kinda stuck in my brain. I can always pretend that I’m primarily interested in diamonds and gold in terms of it’s raw materials and commodities, but why then did I look through all those websites trying to find the “perfect” ring? Something that’s sculpted just right, not to thin and not to thick, has plenty of craftsmanship included and of course is made of excellent raw materials. The idea of buying an imperfect diamond, meaning something of lower than vs2 quality, disgusts me both consciously and subconsciously. What’s the point in buying a painting with a big tear down the middle or has a long scratch off a corner? Exactly, you wouldn’t. Unless that painting was worth $500,000 and they were selling it to you cheap… but you get my point.What could possibly be an excuse for buying lower-grade diamonds, especially below SI1 in clarity or above G in color?

If your girlfriend/fiancee is that desperate for a rock on her finger, she probably either isn’t that bright or just hasn’t done the research on diamonds. If she had, she would have realized by now that the a 0.50k diamond with great symmetry, ideal height and width, vs2 clarity and falls somewhere in the near colorless range is going to be worth near or even more than one twice it’s size with one or more of these values severely flawed. As long as the one your buying doesn’t have any significant flaws/imperfections and has plenty of luster and internal fire, don’t worry about buying the largest one you can find. Just like you would never spend more money based solely on the size of any other object of art, treat this purchase with the same respect and research you would buying an expensive antique. That would be my best guess as to the true value of a diamond.

One more thing, one that a staggering number of people going out for their first major diamond purchase have never done. Even though it’s probably out of your price range, grow a backbone and ask the sales representative to show you the clearest and most dazzling diamond they have to offer. Looking at a diamond in person is completely different from researching them online or even looking at high definition pictures. There’s something about the lighting and the ability to see the stone in 3 dimensions that you can’t see in any other format. The reason you should look at a diamond much better than the ones you might likely purchase is for comparison down the road. Keep that picture of what a diamond should look like in the back of your mind when your examining other stones in your price range for similarities and more importantly, for things they might be lacking. Keep in mind that without this eyes-on comparison, even an obviously flawed and tinted diamond will still outshine just about anything  material and will almost magnetically draw you to buy it.

That’s one of the major reasons why jewelry makers sold 8 billion dollars worth of diamond jewelry last year; 8 times what they sold of every other gem combined. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time over the years just wandering into random little jewelry shops, you know the ones that are all around vacationing spots like Ocean City, MD or Atlantic City, NJ. I’m always stunned to the point of silence as I examine most of their wares, some are so bad that they don’t even tell you the carat weight or clarity of the diamonds. Just this past weekend me and my fiancee walked into a shop where they were selling an engagement ring with a single center stone. The point of the solitaire engagement ring is to put all the focus on that one diamond set in the middle. This .52k round brilliant was so riddled with flaws and so colored that it was nearly black; It would have been laughable if the sticker price for it wasn’t nearly $4000! The sales clerk even offered to give me a “Labor Day Discount”: $3500. Wow, thanks a lot. The saddest thing is that some poor schmuck down the road will probably shell out the dough, just to appease their pretty new girlfriend.

With all of this information, hopefully anyone reading this blog will at least learn these few things. 1. Don’t instantly believe the sales representative: their profit margin is only as high as your stupidity will allow them. 2. Don’t rush into a purchase as important as diamond jewelry:  it would be an understatement to say this shouldn’t be an impulse buy.  3. Most jewelers will match prices on loose stones. 4. Don’t be lured by a high carat weight on an engagement ring. If it isn’t a single stone or at the very least only a couple stones, more than likely the stones are nearly worthless and therefore the piece of jewelry is too. 5. Taking all these rules into account, take the time to research the material. If you can’t take this relatively small amount of time to get even the jewelry right, how would you ever find the time to make your relationship work?

 

Michael, Wong_83@hotmail.com

Some of my All-Time Best NFL players…

Potential players that most certainly should make the ALL-CENTURY List…  I would suggest the following:

1. Lynn Swann WR, Steelers
2. Terry Bradshaw QB, Steelers
3. Ray Lewis LB, Ravens
4. Orlando Pace OL, inventor of the “pancake-block,” Rams
5. Lawrence Taylor(!) DE, Giants
6. Deion Sanders CB, 49ers+Cowboys+Falcons+Ravens
7. Randy Moss WR, Vikings+Patriots
8. Darrell Green CB, Redskins
9. Gale Sayers RB, Bears
10. Barry Sanders RB, Lions
11. Reggie White DE, Eagles+Packers
12. Peyton Manning QB, Colts

There are numerous other people that probably could or should have been listed who I have either forgotten or just didn’t have the time or space to put on this list. The people that HAVE been listed so far are, for the most part, NFL players who have changed the game of football at their position by being so infinitely superior to their comrades of the day that the rules had to be changed to make the game fair once more.

Swann makes the list for changing being a receiver into an art form.. Bradshaw for calling his own plays and creating his own audibles in an era when the head coach or offensive coordinator called the plays. Ray Lewis is in for being underestimated from the very beginning of his career and becoming an annual fixture on the All-Pro and Pro-Bowl lists.. as well as destroying and tackling anyone who opposed him. Orlando Pace makes this one for leaving college early, not for the money or the prestige but for pure competitive spirit.. he had noone left to compete with at the collegiate level, even leaving Florida State-star Simeon Rice in the dust.

Lawrence Taylor will always be on my list of all time greats for this simple truth: He single-handedly jumped the price-tag of defensive ends and therefore left tackles tenfold. It doesn’t hurt that he will forever be known as the monster who destroyed Hall of Fame QB Joe Theismann’s career. Deion Sanders was known on and off the field for his larger then life antics, highlights and mouth. He talked a good game but also played one as well, and was one of the first complete shut-down corners who was versatile enough to even contribute in the passing and special teams game.

Randy Moss makes this list for being not only an incredibly tall receiver who can jump as well, but also for routinely beating double and even triple-teams. Any team that has him on the field, regardless of the QB, is instantly better offensively. He also has some of the softest hands in NFL history. Darrell Green is very similar to Deion Sanders in that he was also a shut-down corner.. only Darrell is even faster and played in an era where defensive backs like him did not exist. He was SO good that teams often would blank out the side of the field that he was on, telling their team not to pass even in the general direction of wherever Green was.

This comment is running a little long so I’ll keep the rest of it short and sweet, with no disrespect intended to the following players.

Gale Sayers, if not for a few career-changing injuries, was among the fastest and shiftiest RBs to ever live. The fact that he’s in the Hall of Fame and only played 4 years speaks volumes about his game-changing ability. Barry Sanders was such an incredible RB that he helped the Lions get to the playoffs and made the Hall of Fame despite playing on some of the most awful teams in NFL history. His ability to turn a 3-yard loss into a 30-yard game was without equal. The Rev, Reggie White dominated QBs and struck fear in offensive coordinator’s minds and game plans by sacking and tackling people for a loss with impunity. He WAS the Packer defense.

Finally, a player who is still currently playing and is about to play in his second Super Bowl in 4 years.. Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts deserves a stake in the All-Time Greatest Players for being a complete QB. When I say that, I mean that he is every head coaches wet dream/fantasy; He does everything he’s supposed too and more, he says only the most appropriate things to the press and on TV, his idea of a night out is watching game film into the wee hours of the night. Oh, by the way, this is in addition to him having the height and the physical attributes of the prototypical QB.. a specimen with perfect mechanics and the intelligence to call his own plays/audibles, kind of like Terry Bradshaw a generation ago. For all these reasons, my hatred for the Colts withstanding, Peyton will in my opinion go down in NFL history as one of the best QBs of all time.

-Michael, Wong_83@hotmail.com (Sorry I rambled so long… I just get really passionate about some of these players who are sometimes snubbed by other fans, analysts and media insiders.)