Thursday, January 27, 2011


I grew up assuming I would have my male children circumcised. This was not for religious purposes. And it’s not because I was taught in any explicit way that I should have my male children circumcised. It’s just that having your male children circumcised was, so I thought, the norm. It’s what most people do. So, I would do it too. Not because I gave it a lot of thought and decided that it made the most sense, but because it was a procedure as routine and expected (so I believed) as cutting the umbilical cord. If you had asked me as a teenager if I would have my future male children circumcised, I would have answered “yes” as automatically and with as little thought as if you had asked me what 2 + 2 equals.

I don’t remember Melanie and me having that much of a discussion concerning whether or not to circumcise Eddie and Peter. We discussed it some, but I don’t remember it being a weighty issue for us. With Creegan, we felt a little less certain. Melanie thought it seemed like a terrible thing to subject our baby to, and it was hard to think up any good justifiable reasons for having it done. Sure enough, our main reason for thinking we should have Creegan circumcised was the superficial fact that if we didn’t have him circumcised, he would be different from most other males, including but not limited to his older brothers.

Melanie and I decided to have Creegan circumcised. After the circumcision was performed, Melanie spoke to a doctor who made her feel a lot better about our decision. He strongly endorsed male circumcision and told Melanie various reasons that it would prove beneficial to our son. Obviously, we would not have had Creegan circumcised if we were that leery of it, but it was still nice to have a doctor applauding our decision.

A few minutes ago, I watched a video someone (I don’t remember whom) posted on Facebook. For the first minute or so of the video, I was highly enjoying it as a philosopher, with the narrator picking apart the shoddy (and dare I say duplicitous) line of reasoning employed by certain medical professionals. As the video went on, however, I found myself gripped by the issue at debate—male circumcision, as you can probably guess. I found the video very powerful and very persuasive, so much so that I really hope anyone reading this will invest 15 minutes into watching it. I feel strongly about this and hope people really will watch it. I’m hoping people watch it not because I want them to oppose male circumcision—I have a hard time completely ruling it out, even now—but because the video highlights how foolish we can be about certain things. We all too often make big decisions for stupid reasons, and we too often think too little for ourselves. The video gives us a real-life example of how lazy thinking is literally dangerous. Appeals to tradition do not justify atrocities. Not liking what other people say is not a reason to dismiss what they say, especially when you honestly can’t give an adequate response to their very well thought-out and very reasonable arguments. I’m not saying that male circumcision is an atrocity—but maybe it is, and I’m willing to ponder on it. I consider that part of being a responsible human being. Being willing to give matters due consideration is what led me from being a staunch denier of giving my organs away after I die to being a firm advocate that we should all be organ donors. How can you possibly defend a willing decision not to let your organs save lives after you’re dead?

But I digress. I’ve posted the video about male circumcision below. I implore you all to watch. There are no disturbing graphics or images to worry about, so don’t fear it. Fear only ignorance.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dew or Dew Not ...

… there is no try.

Back when I was living in Atlanta, I tried a variety of Mountain Dew knock-offs. Nothing came close to matching the exquisite flavor of the real deal, but some were much better than others. I was long ago going to write a comparative review of these products, put it up on my blog, and give it the title that I’ve now given this post. But despite keeping the title, this post is not about Mountain Dew knock-offs in the strictest sense, it’s about Diet Mountain Dew—the good, the bad, and the ugly of it.

As many of you know, I recently stopped drinking regular sodas except on very rare occasions. So far, I’ve been quite a fan of Coke Zero, Cherry Coke Zero, and Diet Dr. Pepper. These are the best-tasting diet sodas that I’ve been able to find, and it has been very easy to transition over to drinking them. Being that I’m such a Mountain Dew fanatic, you may wonder why Diet Mountain Dew didn’t immediately join the mix. The answer is quite simple: I went through a brief period in high school when I drank only diet soda, and Diet Mountain Dew just wasn’t worth drinking. Diet Mountain Dew, as I remembered it, lost all of the magic of the real thing. There was no semblance of regular Mountain Dew whatsoever. In comparison, Diet Mountain Dew tasted like grapefruit, something like Fresca. Knowing this, I didn’t even bother trying Diet Mountain Dew for the first several weeks of my more recent change in drinking habits.

Very recently, Melanie and I stopped at Circle K and got some drinks. I wanted something brighter-flavored than cola or Diet Dr. Pepper. I wanted something citrusy. I decided to go crazy and try Diet Mountain Dew. I figured that because I’ve been drinking diet sodas for a while now, Diet Mountain Dew might not taste so bad. And was I right? Yes and no. Diet Mountain Dew still pales in comparison to regular Mountain Dew. It still tastes more like grapefruit than does its high fructose counterpart. And so, there is not enough family resemblance between them to completely quell my longings for the magical beverage that I fell in love with as a baby, when Mom and Dad used to put the stuff in my baby bottle. (Just kidding—although they may have. I know my younger sister was treated to soda even before she could speak.) But I thoroughly enjoyed the drink nonetheless. And I’ve learned something I never had the chance to realize back in high school. If you’re drinking Diet Mountain Dew while eating, the beverage is even tastier. Quite good, even. At least now that I’ve reached the point where the aftertaste of aspartame is no longer noticeable to me.

I’ve also learned something else about Mountain Dew through all of this. It is not merely the taste of Mountain Dew that makes it such a wonderful delight. There is a tactile quality to it, as well. “In what sense does it have a different tactile quality than any other soda?” I can hear you all asking. Oh, but it does. There is something very smooth and silky about Mountain Dew. I figure it’s the brominated vegetable oil. But here’s the good news: Diet Mountain Dew also has brominated vegetable oil in it. And so, the beverage has the same silken texture that regular Mountain Dew has. And that’s a really nice thing. (As for the bad side of brominated vegetable oil, we’ll just ignore that for now.)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


It’s just after noon here in Tallahassee, Florida. The temperature outside is 41° F, though says it feels like only 34° F. I’m inside, so I can’t say. But I believe it. It’s been brutally cold here lately. The winter started off quite fickle. On New Year’s Day, it was 75° F outside. I was comfortably walking around in a t-shirt and shorts. A day or two after (or was it before?) that, it actually snowed here. You could barely see it, but it was there. I had to stand with my arms outstretched, collecting tiny pieces of white fuzz along my black sleeves, in order to convince myself it really was snow. It was. And yesterday, as I waited for a morning bus to take me to school, I froze. I had worn long pants, one of my heavier, long-sleeved shirts, and a jacket to boot. Even so, it felt bitter. Hellish. I use that word quite literally. I know the Judeo-Christian religions opt to speak of Hell in terms of fire and brimstone, but I imagine it as barren, cold, dark, and desolate. Much like winter can feel. Soulless. Vacant. Hauntingly bare, even of warmth.

Here’s the kicker: I kind of liked it. It helped that it wasn’t completely dark outside, that I wasn’t immensely tired and up before dawn. In wintertime, being up before the sun is the hellish icing on the (devil’s food?) cake. Then you’ve got the darkness without and the lack of vitality within that can almost convince you that you’re in the netherworld. As it was, I was out in the hustle and bustle of the day. It was just a colder, grayer version thereof. The kind of day where you can search the sky for an inch of blue and not find it. So what was I so fond of? I think it felt nostalgic to me. More like the genuine winters I remember from childhood. Granted, there wasn’t a blanket of snow here, but there wasn’t always snow as a kid, either. The point is that it felt as wintertime always did to me growing up: timeless, or perhaps more appropriately, frozen. No matter how busy the street you may be standing on, in winter, everything somehow translates into still life. There’s a nostalgic, melancholy quality to it, even if it sometimes feels like death.

Sometimes when I fantasize about the future, I imagine myself living somewhere that has brutal winters. Odds are, I’ll live somewhere with much harsher winters than I’ve had to deal with over the last few years. I don’t aspire to this, but it’s statistically likely. And in some regard, it sounds right and good. I think I’d hate it, but I also think it could feel like home. Not just the home I grew up in, but home-like in general. Having a family and a house and growing old—shouldn’t there be memories involving snow somewhere in there? Maybe there’s something spiritual about facing the harshness of winter and being redeemed of it come spring. Even on a daily basis, there may be spiritual symbolism in being thrust into the cold, dark winter world and fighting against it until you find salvation in the comfort of returning home, baptized in the light and warmth of modern electricity, not to mention family.

So, are they winter wonderlands or winter wastelands? I’m not sure it makes much difference. Either way, they’re quiet. And I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to hear myself think.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Potpourri No. 29

Phony Baloney
It's been just under one year since Melanie and I dropped our one Sprint cell phone and opted for two prepaid cell phones from Tracfone. The service is spottier, but overall, Tracfone has served our needs. About two days ago, I finally ran out of the first official set of minutes that I purchased for my cell phone. Those 900 minutes cost me $80, and it cost me $20 to get the phone in the first place. If you do the math, that means my prepaid cell phone is costing me approximately $8.50 per month. That's a much better value than the $40-50 it cost me every month for the barest of plans from Sprint. Now, I don't know how much we've spent on Melanie's cell phone, but it isn't enough to make up the difference. Clearly, switching to prepaid cell phones was the right move for us.

Movie Club, Anyone?
I watch a decent amount of movies, and many of them are movies that not a lot of other people see. Sometimes I see a movie that I really wish other people would see, either because I think those people would thoroughly enjoy it, or because I think the film merits attention. I tell my family about these movies sometimes, but I know they'll never bother tracking them down. A while back, I started thinking that perhaps I should start a long-distance movie club with my family, kind of like a book club. The basic idea would be something like this: once a month, we all watch the same movie at some point during the first week of the month. We trade off who chooses the movie, but everyone must watch that same film. The person choosing the movie would pick a movie he/she knows (or at least strongly supposes) few to none of the others have seen. It should be a movie that the person thinks should be seen. After everyone has watched the movie, we could discuss it via the web—on my blog, for instance. Does anyone have any interest in doing this? It wouldn't have to be limited to family, but that's practically all that reads my blog anyway. We could begin pretty much right away, if we wanted. And heck, maybe to start off, we could all choose a movie that everyone else has to watch during the first month. It'd be like a film festival of recommended films, a little cinematic feast to get the ball rolling and get us thinking about movies. Who's game?

Sick of Sickness
I've had a lot more anxiety over the last few months than I typically do, most of it revolving in some way or another around my and my family's physical well-being. It seems neverending that something is going on. I had diverticulitis in early October. Then Creegan came along and dealt with serious jaundice and pyloric stenosis. On top of that, we've all been passing colds back and forth. And has it stopped? Not at all. Yesterday, Creegan was throwing up quite a bit and seemed not to be feeling very well. And a few days ago, Edison got attacked by fire ants and ended up with about 15 bites on his right hand plus about 5 bites on his left hand. His right hand has been massively swollen for days, and the itching and general anxiety he feels over it has sometimes left him having near-delirious fits. And, of course, our "wonderful" new minivan keeps getting sick too. I'm writing this blog in the waiting room of the repair shop, where they are replacing the fuel pump at an estimated cost of $400. (Good thing all of my money right now is make-believe! It makes it easier to part with!) At this point in time, Melanie and I are desperate for a week to go by when nothing overwhelming happens. It's not easy to be optimistic about that.

Back to School
This post wouldn't be complete without a brief mention that, yes, another semester has begun. The really cool thing about this semester is that I'm not taking any official classes of my own. I have a TA gig that obligates me to be on campus for about three hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but other than that, I'm doing independent work. Motivation and discipline will be the challenge, but I admit that I'll enjoy only going to campus twice per week. Even though I do schoolwork six days a week, it’ll be nice having five-day weekends. Working from home is nice.