Whipped cream and nuts?

I go to this awesome ice cream place in the Berkshires. It’s great. But every time I order my sundae, they ask a followup question, “Do you want whipped cream and nuts?” And I always think to myself, why do they have to ask that question? If you go to a small ice cream place and you order a sundae, you shouldn’t have to confirm the fact that you want whipped cream and nuts. That’s part of what makes a sundae a sundae. Otherwise it’s just ice cream and one or two toppings: not a sundae.

And I know it’s coming, the dreaded question, every time I go, the same exact intonation and pitch. I can imagine the high schoolers training for the job right before the summer. The owner has them all lined up, reading from a script, “Whipped cream and nuts?” not even a full sentence, just the two items spouted in the form of a question, until it become more of a reflex than anything else.

What happened? Did you get burned one time years and years ago? Did a guy order a sundae, and after you made it, did he complain, “Ooooh, I didn’t want whipped cream and nuts. You didn’t confirm with me. You’ll have to make it again,” and as you watched that sundae and all of the profits it represented head straight into the trash, did you vow yourself to never let that mistake happen again?

What about a cup? Ooooh, sorry, I actually wanted that sundae on a plate. And you didn’t confirm with me whether I wanted it in a cup or on a plate. Actually, I just want you to make it right in my hand, no cup, no plate, nothing.

That would be ridiculous. Asking if I want whipped cream and nuts is also ridiculous. The burden of making sure there aren’t any unwanted toppings falls squarely on the customer’s shoulders. All right, stop asking me so many questions. “Napkins?” Just give me some napkins, you just made me a gigantic sundae with all sorts of toppings and whipped cream and nuts falling over the sides, of course I want napkins.

I still believe in Eli

Eli Manning didn’t have a great season last year. And if you go by preseason football, he’s not looking much better. But I don’t care what people think. I don’t care if my brother-in-law Mike dangled Eli in front of my face in our fantasy league, proposing a joke trade for my starting wide receiver. I’ll take that trade Mike, and we’ll see who’s laughing come February. Because I still believe in the man that got the job done twice. I still believe in Eli.

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To everyone out there writing off the Giants based on a poor preseason performance, you’re all crazy. Nobody cares about preseason football. Not the players, not the coaches, hardly even any real football fans. The only people watching preseason football are ESPN announcers and statistics junkies. The on-air personalities, at least they have an incentive to pretend to be excited about the preseason. But the junkies? The guys that spend all of their free time calculating odds and constantly trying to put up the perfect fantasy lineup? They’re not even real fans. They’ve transcended fandom, to the point where football doesn’t even look enjoyable, not from their point of view anyway.

So Eli didn’t do that great last year. That’s all in the past. And considering their abysmal 0 – 6 start, I actually feel like a lot of their late-season accomplishments went unnoticed. But yeah, any way you want to spin it, 2014 wasn’t a great year for the G-Men.

But like I said, so what? Eli had one really bad year. You don’t think it’s possible to bounce back from one bad year? This is a guy that has two championships under his belt. Of course he’s going to bounce back. Let’s at least wait until the first game to start planning his early exit from the Giants.

And that brings me to another point. I read some article saying how rumors were leaking from the higher-ups in the Giants organization, about how many were starting to wonder if Eli isn’t in the beginning of his decline as an athlete. From a pure business standpoint, what kind of an attitude is that? Don’t you guys want to make money this year? Don’t you think that maybe you should be encouraging your starting quarterback, giving him a little bit of positive encouragement instead of gossiping behind his back? Why are you trying to undermine your own potential success?

Eli sure has a lot to prove, but I think that his history of success has entitled him to the benefit of the doubt following last year. Yeah, offense was terrible in general, but a quarterback can only pass the buck on so much of that responsibility. But until this season starts out in a nosedive like last year, there’s no reason to start automatically assuming that it’s not going to work out. If anything, we should be excited. Because at the very least, it would be really hard to match whatever happened last year.

Come on, the Giants have a great quarterback. As a fan base, we need to start acting like it. Eli, if you’re reading this, I just want to let you know that I still believe in you. I know you’re going to have a great year. I had a dream last night where you guys won the Super Bowl. It was awesome. I was sitting front row. You looked at me after a twenty-five yard touchdown pass, and you winked at me. Part of me wishes that I never woke up. And you’re on my fantasy team now. So my success hinges on yours. We’re in this together Eli, and I’m not worried at all. In fact, I’ve never felt more confident about anything else in my life.

In the future, we won’t have money, and we’ll all be socialists

My ideal vision of the future has always been as its portrayed in the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation. Humanity has transcended all of the petty nonsense that we’re still fighting about today. Poverty has been eradicated. Common diseases are distant memories of a medical dark age hundreds of years in the past.

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Technology in the twenty-fourth century (while admittedly looking more and more dated as the twenty-first century marches on) makes everything accessible to everyone. If you want something, you can fabricate it out of one of the ship’s many onboard replicating machines. It’s the same with food, just speak into the box, tell it what you want, and zap! There it is, bon appetit. Entertainment via the Holodeck is so much more immersive than the trivial pastimes we occupy ourselves with today.

And it’s more than just food and games. Transportation is completely reimagined. With transporters and faster-than-light warp drives, traveling to and from work must be a non-issue. People of the future don’t have to take the subway anywhere. The whole idea of commuting is probably as antiquated as a horse-and-buggy seems to subway riders today.

My point in all of this is to look at our own technological advancement. I’m a firm believer that we’re well on our way to not only achieving, but probably surpassing all of the feats of advancement on display in Star Trek. Three-dimensional printers are just becoming a commercially viable commodity, and so the ability to replicate various objects might soon be a reality for the developed world. Similarly, as driverless cars inevitably take over the roadways, traffic, parking, car accidents, they’re all bound to become headaches of the past.

And as technology takes over more and more of the heavy lifting involved with day-to-day life, how is this going to affect the economy, our sense of wealth, our very definition of the word liberty? I ask this because, in Star Trek anyway, everything is free. Futuristic machines are so ubiquitous that it wouldn’t make sense to charge anybody for goods and services. No, the very idea of currency does not mesh with the utopian economy built on a foundation of infinite clean energy.

If we ever get there, or to some version of something like the world they have on Star Trek, how are we going to make that transition? How are people in charge going to give up their ability to demand a percentage of our own personal wealth in exchange for whatever it is they have to be offering? Or will things stay the same way they are now, a group of people at the top taking a greater percentage of what I would argue should be equally divided?

Take transportation as an example. Let’s look at taxicabs. A driver might not own his own car, he might lease it from a central dispatching agent. But in the process of me getting from point A to point B, I’m paying the driver, and ultimately those profits go on to not only sustain the greater taxi company, but to support the driver’s income.

And so what happens when that driver’s job is replaced by a computer? Is the price of a ride going to go down? I can’t imagine any taxi company willing to lower the fare. I mean, the fact that we’re willing to pay a certain price now shows that the amount is somewhat reasonable. So what’s happening in this potential scenario is that the owner of all the taxis, now free from worrying about assuming the liability of hiring drivers, gets to take home all of the profit, leaving a now unemployed segment of the workforce to look for some other means of earning money.

As technology takes over more and more aspects of society, where is everybody supposed to work? It’s just going to increase this divide, that those in power, those currently with wealth, they’re going to maximize and multiply what they currently have, leaving everyone else with a constantly shrinking piece of the pie.

There are signs that it’s happening already. Look at music and writing. When I was growing up, a CD cost about fifteen bucks. I got a physical object, and a lot of people made money producing that object, selling those objects, it was all part of a system. It was the same way with books and booksellers. But now those commodities are largely digital. We’re getting the same product, the same work of art, but there’s no longer the economy supporting the manufacture and sale of those goods.

And the prices aren’t really that much cheaper. Songs are over a dollar each on iTunes, and publishing companies and authors are constantly fighting with Amazon over how much a digital book should cost. Because as technology grows, the idea of currency doesn’t make sense.

I don’t know how they did it in Star Trek, but they somehow got to the point where nobody pays for anything. People with a lot of money had to give up their extreme riches in order for everybody to share in the wealth and utopia ushered in by a golden age of technological progress. I think we’ll eventually have to deal with how that’s going to work in current society. And it’s going to be tough.

If machines do most of our work, is there still going to be that mentality where you have to work forty hours a week? If poverty doesn’t exist, are we still going to judge those least fortunate for their lack of a work ethic? If you had all of your basic needs met and didn’t really have to do anything, would you still toil away at a job that you didn’t like? In Star Trek, nobody has to, and nobody does. They find something they want to do because they enjoy it, and money isn’t a problem. I have no idea how we’re ever going to get there, but I hope that we do, because the future is coming whether we like it or not.

Could you please help me up?

Excuse me, sir, yes, you. I’m sorry to bother you but, could you please help me up? Yeah, I don’t know, I just, it’s like my legs folded and I sat down and now I can’t get back up again. I know. I am trying. Look, see, I’m moving my torso around, right, yes, well that’s exactly the problem, I can’t get them to move. No, don’t call an ambulance. I’m just, I’m just thinking that if I could somehow get back on my feet, I can’t explain it, but I think everything would sort of right itself out.

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Well, just, could you kind of come around behind me and grab from my chest? Yeah, I’m only about one eighty, one ninety, you think you could do like a squat? Yes, I’m sure I don’t want an ambulance, I don’t have any insurance. Yeah well, Obamacare doesn’t go into effect for another year or so. I don’t know, my boss said something about open enrollment and the lady on the state hotline said the same thing, I was getting nowhere, and then one of my uncles told me that they’re not going to start fining people for another year or so. So … yeah, no hospital, please.

Well, is it the weight thing? Because I’m sure we could get someone else to help out. Could you deadlift ninety pounds? What about that guy, over in the corner? Go ask him if he’d help you out. No, not that guy, the guy with the yellow jacket. True, but I think he looks a little bit more well-rounded than the other guy, more core strength. And yeah, that’s totally just a random guess, I mean I have no idea how strong either of them are. Just, look, it’s your call, but if I were you, I’d ask the guy with the yellow jacket. I don’t know, just ask him if he could help you lift something.

Well what did he say? No? Did you ask the other guy? Well, I don’t see why you wouldn’t have asked him since you were already over there. Aw man, they’re both gone now. OK, look, maybe if you just kind of give me a roll. Can you get sort of under my lower back? I get it, but just, I wouldn’t be asking if I weren’t stuck here. There we go. OK, and now just leverage the rest of your weight against my …

OK, now I can’t move my hands either. My arms are working fine. But it’s like everything below the wrist is just disconnected. Are you looking that up on your phone? Do you have any doctor friends or relatives? No, me neither. Yeah. Maybe you should call the ambulance. Yeah, I’m starting to lose my vision. No, it’s cool. Just, can you take my wallet, my ID, everything. Just throw it out. Tell them you found me this way. I’ll try to go for the whole John Doe thing, and maybe they won’t figure out where to send the bills. Just hurry up, OK, I’m having trouble swallowing. Thanks again man, for stopping I mean. You’re like the only person that stopped. I really owe you one.

Nobody cares about your dumb séance

I have this really weird friend, and she’d been talking about doing a séance for months. “Come on guys!” she’d say after nobody responded to any of her suggestions. Nobody ever responded. Because nobody wants to do a séance. Nobody but crazy people. “It’ll be so much fun!” and we’d just do our best to ignore her, to hope that after a while she’d burn herself out, maybe take a hint that nobody felt like standing around and holding hands like a bunch of wackos.

Seance

And yeah, I guess she took the hint, because one day she decided to take charge, to force us all into participating. We arrived at our friend Jeff’s place at eight, and even Jeff looked kind of shocked as we entered the darkened living room, the long candles set up around the perimeter of a folding poker table set up in the middle.

“What the hell Jeff?” we all asked without actually saying anything. And Jeff just shrugged, communicating, “I don’t know guys, she just showed up and started setting everything up.” Which, sorry Jeff, you’re not off the hook. I mean, talk about being a pushover. That’s your place. It’s your responsibility to put the foot down when someone comes over and tries to take over the direction of a get-together at your apartment. It’s like when I have people over, and Carl tries to hijack the music. “Come on guys, there’s this really cool Gypsy punk band that I found out about online. We should listen to the whole album!” Yeah, it’s a little mean, taking the computer out of his hands, password protecting the playlist. But what’s the alternative?

The alternative is shit like this, sitting around some ridiculous table getting ready to play make-believe with all of your adult friends, when all you really want to be doing is smoking pot and playing video games. “Guys, come on, hold hands! Be quiet!” that was our friend. We were all past the point of looking visibly pissed off, and half of us were muttering obscenities under our breath. She didn’t care, “Guys! Quiet!”

She turned off the lights and lit all of the candles. “For real guys, just hold hands, just come on.” And we did, probably because we realized that this was never going to stop being a thing unless we just got through it. So, begrudgingly, I joined hands with the two guys to my side, hoping that this wouldn’t take too much longer.

“Spirits from beyond,” she started her séance speech. It was too much to take. Like were these prepared words that she had written down ahead of time? Or was she just winging it, going for the whole otherworldly ghost feel? It was way over the top, the way she pronounced everything, “from beyo – ooo – oond.”

But after like a minute of this nonsense the candles all blew out at the same time. That got everybody’s attention. “Hey, how’d you do that?” one of my friends said, and someone else said, “Shhh.”

“Ghost of the departed, why do you come? What do you need to tell us?”

And then a voice started speaking. It sounded like it was coming from the middle of the table, but there wasn’t any echo or anything, nothing like the disembodied characteristics that you hear in ghost movies. With the lights out, our eyes didn’t have a chance to adjust, and so we couldn’t see anything, the source of the voice, if it was just one of our friends playing the part of the deceased.

“What do you mean?” the voice said.

“Why do you come from bey – ooo –oond?”

“I don’t know. You summoned me. What do you want?”

“Deliver unto us your otherworldly message!”

“For real? This is like something out of a bad horror movie. Come on, aren’t you guys bored? How’d you let her talk you into to any of this? I mean, I’m fine. I’m beyond the whole concept of time and space, so this isn’t really a big deal for me. Yeah, I’m bored, but it’s not like I have anywhere better to be. What about you guys? You’re just going to waste the rest of your twenties sitting around and playing video games? I’m not judging, it’s just that when I was alive …”

“OK! All right! Thank you. We get it. Thank you for visiting us. Guys, does anybody see the lighter? Can someone turn the lights on?”

And Jeff was right by the door. He hit the switch and the lights went on and there was nobody else with us. It was just a bunch of people sitting around a table, still kind of awkwardly holding hands.

Nobody wanted to talk about it anymore. Everyone felt a little ridiculous, that even if it were a real ghost that we somehow conjured into this plane of existence, that even the disembodied voices of the dead think that a stupid séance is a dumb waste of time. I wanted to rub this fact in my friend’s face, but nobody was saying anything. I think she felt bad about it. We all just quietly opened our beers and packed our bowls while Jeff blew in the cartridges of his old N64 games, trying to get Super Smash Brothers to work. Carl and Bill started fighting over who got to play as Captain Falcon. I need to get some new friends.