Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Ever Learning? Check. Coming to a Knowledge of the Truth? Um, Not So Much

I've made no secret of my hatred of teenagers. I'd link to my past post where I call teenagers one of God's all-time top-five worst ideas, but I don't feel like it right now. Just take my word, it's there somewhere. Somewhere in all the crap, it's there.

Anyway, here's something to file under "counter-intuitive": a Vox article entitled "Today's Teenagers Are the Best-Behaved Generation on Record." It's not ironic, and it's not satire. This is supposed to be legitimate.

What is their evidence? Well, the teen birth rate is way down. But since the birth rate isn't the pregnancy rate or the abortion rate, I had to look a little more. Turns out that all three rates are at record lows right now, as is the abortion ratio, which is the percentage of teen pregnancies that end in abortion. Teens are less likely to get pregnant, and when they do they are less likely to kill the baby.

Also down are teen drinking and smoking. And more teens meet federal exercise guidelines, although it's unclear to me if those guidelines have changed over time (a common practice among government agencies to show progress or remain relevant).

So what's the deal? Are teens really better now than ever before? I'm hesitant to say yes. Fewer teens are doing the things we don't want them to do, but fewer are also doing the things we do want them to do, like learn-ding. More stay in school than ever before, and more are going to college than ever before, but test scores are either lower or rigged by changing the exam. College students require remedial courses in ever-increasing numbers. And kindergarten has become a full-day learning endeavor, while in my youth, kindergarten was a half-day play-date that still found time for a nap. (I remember being freaked out by my sleeping classmates. These kids were in kindergarten and they were still napping?!)

So kids are spending less time playing, less time being deviant, and more time being instructed, but they are still getting dumber. The wheels are turning faster and faster, but the vehicle is going slowly backwards. Like I noted once about schools' "good citizen" awards (not looking it up, go find it yourself), what's really happening is teens are getting more-easily controlled. And since that's the goal of state education, the only reason we should be surprised is that a state enterprise actually produced its target outcome.

Time Machine, But Not in a Good Way

In April, I went to the store to buy some shoes. I came home with some shoes. My wife saw the shoes. And the next day I went back to the store to buy some shoes, for real this time.

Because I now was lacking confidence (as Dan Klein writes: "Virgil said: 'They are able because they think they are able.' Parentalisms tell them, 'you are not able,' and thereby may make them unable."), I tried to send pictures from the store to my wife.

Our phones appear to be capable of sending pictures, either in text messages or in e-mails. But more often than not, these messages fail to send. A picture in a text message will return an error report (although that doesn't always mean it actually erred), and a picture in an e-mail will just sit in the outbox forever. I sent an e-mail to myself in January with some pictures attached, and last week I got a message saying it wasn't going to work out. I sent an error report to Google about the two e-mails in then in my outbox that had been there for over a month. So Google hastened their erring, which wasn't quite what I wanted.

This week, I texted a picture to my wife, and it forced through the picture of the shoes, too. I'm not sure why, because I have tried to send other picture messages between then and now. In fact, the picture is no longer on my phone. But it was somewhere in the airwaves, awaiting the proper moment to surprise my wife with a blast from the past.

Anyway, this is the explanation for why my Indianapolis blog post has been so delayed. I've been waiting for the e-mail of pictures to show up in my inbox. But it could take months, so I finally connected my phone to my computer with a freaking CABLE like I live in the 1800s or something, and now I will write the blog post later today.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Unexpected Things Aren't Always Better

Yesterday, I received a bank card in the mail.

It looks fake. It looks so fake, in fact, that the attached sheet has to assure me, "Yep, the card's real." If you find that your "innovative new design" has to include literature assuring your customers that your product is legitimate, your design is too innovative. If I look at the card and think it's fake, what will store clerks think? Am I supposed to carry around the mailing with me to set their minds at ease?

This reminded me of a weird figure-eight traffic circle we encountered last weekend in Carmel, Indiana.

Here's the main positive aspect of this design: traffic doesn't have to stop coming off the ramps. Here's the main negative aspect: traffic doesn't get the opportunity to stop and analyze the lay-out before getting shepherded into it. The first time driving through this thing, every single driver said to himself, "Wait, what?" But he's already inside it, at 35 MPH. That doesn't seem safe.

Last month in Columbus we went through a newly-upgraded interchange. On ohio.gov you can find a page featuring this:

So I guess my first time through the thing I was supposed to whip out my smart phone and study this diagram. I must have missed that PSA.

From now on, innovative traffic designs should be tested with a half-scale mock-up and eight-year-olds on bicycles. If in the first hour of testing there are half as many bike accidents as there are currently traffic accidents with the old design, the old design stays. Even the rectangular prism milk jugs at Costco have demonstrators, and I can't think of a single way screwing that up could lead to a death (but I can easily imagine how I'd kill the idiot who invented the rectangular prism milk jugs).

Monday, May 19, 2014

More Documentation Fees

A Random Stranger: I mean, I like you people, but do I $700 like you people?

My Wife: More than that, by the time you figure out how much it'll cost to get us all over there.

ARS: You're not helping yourself. For a fraction of that price I can get one of those virtual reality set-ups, where I put a helmet on my head and a thing on my deal.

MW: You know what?

Current bureaucracy expenditures to date: $868.75. Estimated cost of the next bureaucratic step: $705. We might end up paying more in bureaucracy fees than in actual airfare.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Tenth Completed State

This weekend I visited the last seven counties in Indiana, completing the state. It's my tenth completed state (after Utah, Arizona, Missouri, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Ohio, and New Jersey) and my first completed state of the year.

Here's the map of our travels. The pictures and commentary will follow tomorrow. (That's called "serialization," or, to be more precise, "beating a dead horse.")

Thursday, May 15, 2014

"Nobody Hit Me to That, Dude"

When you find yourself in the private bar of the Satan's Helpers, as Pee-Wee Herman did, it can get quite embarrassing. Pee-Wee got out of it by borrowing the cook's shoes and dancing on the bar to "Tequila." And when college girls find out they are at a private party that only ends with a job if your family connections can get you one, they also diffuse the embarrassment by dancing on a bar. Then they black out and get assaulted.

On Marginal Revolution I saw a write-up of a book review of Paying for the Party. It seems like a fairly profound explanation of how rampant credentialism is victimizing lower-class women. Buying into the myth that their degree will get them where they want to go, they end up as hangers-on who are ripe for abuse by their upper-class peers. And it only costs them tens of thousands of debt that can't be expunged by personal bankruptcy.

At some point, you'd think, the message that this is not a good deal would be broadcast more loudly. Unfortunately, all the evidence I see is of young people doubling down on a broken and corrupt signalling system.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

You Can Call Me the Denver Mint, Because I'm Coining All Kinds of New Stuff

I'm not trying to be an insufferable bore by inventing new terms. It's just that all the existing terms don't adequately describe the conditions I see around me.

First I needed a term for the pro-destruction social program that has taken over "liberal" thought, so I invented the term "annihilism." Then I needed a term for the illiberal counterrevolution that will be a response to forced participation in annihilism, so I invented the term "Great Social Reset." Now I am confronted with the fact that when people use the word "charity," they almost always use it to describe "charitable giving." The Bible describes "charity" as "the pure love of Christ." It is a state of mind, a way of looking at others, a motivation for treating them well. In the Biblical sense, charity isn't when I give money to a homeless man, it's what makes me want to give money to a homeless man.

I'm not inventing a new phrase here, but I'm clarifying terms. On my blog from now on, I will not use the word "charity" in isolation. I will use the term "charitable giving" to describe charity-motivated donations (what most of the world thinks of as "charity"), and I will use the term "Biblical charity" to describe the philanthropic feeling for others.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Wastefulness of Socialism

Last month I was driving across southern Virginia. In front of me was a truck owned by a chain of grocery stores based in North Carolina. I thought of how the truck was driving past already existing and completely stocked grocery stores. Why was it doing this? Because the owners of the North Carolina chain want to divert some grocery dollars of some Virginians to themselves. But in order to do that, they are engaged in an incredible amount of inefficiencies. Duplicate stores, crisscrossing goods, et cetera.

This is the typical argument behind placing restrictions on the market. "The market is inefficient. We need market controls." But market controls are even less efficient. They must be, because socialist economies produce less than market economies. If we created "grocery store zones" and set aside North Carolina as the exclusive market of the North Carolina grocery store, prices would rise, innovation would decrease, and quality would go down. So while capitalism has inefficiencies, socialism has more of them.

A Zion people, where the motivation is not private gain but public gain, removes the inefficiencies of both capitalism and socialism, and that is why Zion societies get very rich, very quickly. Getting rich isn't evil; it's the desire to get rich but not in tandem with others that introduces the inefficiencies of capitalism and socialism. The saving grace of capitalism is that competition creates a check on the rise of inefficiencies. Were that check to be internal, as in a Zion society, the inefficiencies of capitalism would no longer be worth tolerating.

Friday, May 09, 2014

The Old Leading the Old

I had to pick my mother up from a doctor's appointment today. I arrived a few minutes early and sat waiting in the car. I saw a hunched-over old man shuffle along the sidewalk, then use his umbrella as a cane to help him step down the curb. I thought, "That guy needs someone helping him get around. He's probably going to drive himself home, but he can barely move."

A moment later, an old woman came out of the building using one of those two-handled, four-wheeled walkers, the kind that you can turn around and use as a seat. My grandma had one for the last few years of her life. They are actually pretty cool. They have hand brakes and everything (except for some bitchin' flames on the side). This lady was barely keeping up with her walker as she approached the sidewalk ramp and I thought, "Use your hand brakes!" Just then, a car pulled up in front of her. The driver got out to help the old woman get in the car. The driver was the hunched-over old man.

Not only did he have no one to help him, he was someone else's help.

I watched him do things I thought he'd be incapable of doing, like open the back of a minivan, lift his wife's walker into the car, and reach above his head to pull down the back door. And I guess that can be a wonderful story of the strength of old people, but I also see it as a terrible story of the demise of the extended family. Why do we no longer think it proper for children under 10 to go about their business without escort, but we have no problem with seniors over 90 driving on the freeway? I think there are two reasons. One is that children start out with parents watching them, so when a child is without his parent, we can track down the adult who "should" be there, but seniors have gone through their self-reliant phase and we can't as easily find the family member who is now needed but is missing. The second reason is resistance from both the responsible family member and from the senior himself. Energy conservation leads us to not seek new responsibilities. If a parent was self-reliant last year, we're not really going to jump at the chance to shoulder that responsibility. But the parent--especially one from a 20th-century generation that venerated independence and youth--will not kindly take the loss of autonomy that should accompany the atrophy of body and mind. This is why Cialis was invented, and three-wheeled motorcycles. Old people now deny they are old.

The child's reluctance to do additional work for the benefit of his parent could be overcome if the child had biblical charity for his parent. The parent's reluctance to allow for limitations on his autonomy could be overcome if the parent had humility.

So, basically, we're screwed.

As a parting note, I leave this link about how the child who cares for you in your old-age is the one who most wants to "pull the plug" at the end. You're welcome.

"Town to Town, Up and Down the Dial"

A few months ago we went to Newport Aquarium in metropolitan northern Kentucky. Since we had to go through Cincinnati, and the town was not having a race riot (not at the moment, anyway), we decided to stop at the William Howard Taft National Historic Site.

Taft was awesome. Most people know nothing of him other than his getting stuck in a bathtub. He was a lawyer, judge, governor, cabinet secretary, president, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He spent his life doing his duty, and was finally rewarded with a position in which he found contentment. Will Taft was a great man.

We got to the site as it was closing. (Because 4:30 is the new 5 PM when you work for the Federales.) We said, "We'll come back when we go through Cincinnati on our way to Louisville for my race in April." But then we didn't go through Cincinnati to get to Louisville; we took the much more direct route through Columbus, Wheeling, Washington, Richmond, and Knoxville. So last week we went to Cincinnati for the day. We went to the Taft home, and this time we actually got to go inside. Articulate Joe enjoyed the stairway junction.

After the kids completed the Junior Ranger activities, they posed with President Taft. In yet another area where the Communists have buried us, it was a life-size picture instead of a preserved corpse.

Next, we went to William Henry Harrison's grave in nearby North Bend, Ohio. Crazy Jane hates President Harrison because she's a big fan of Tecumseh (because I made her read a Tecumseh biography a few years ago). We talked about why President Harrison might have thought it was okay to kill Indians on sight, and while it didn't make her a Harrison fan, it kept her from urinating on his grave. Which was nice.

After getting some dinner at Olive Garden (I don't document everything, you know), we went to a Cincinnati Reds game. I was rooting for the Reds because they were playing the Brewers, who are leading the Pirates' division right now.

The Reds lost, 2-0. It was Star Wars night, which meant they had some actors there portraying various characters. Darth Vader threw out the first pitch. The players' pictures on the Jumbotron had Star Wars effects on them (so all the home players either looked like X-wing pilots or Jedi masters, and all the visiting players had their faces covered with stormtrooper helmets). After the game, the fireworks display was set to Star Wars music. The Screamapilar enjoyed the fireworks.

The section next to ours was filled with students and faculty from Thomas More College. The students were not the problem--the faculty was. One faculty member in particular stopped nearly everyone he knew and talked to them. Half the time he would stand up to do it, but even when he didn't, the other person was standing up in the aisle. They were directly between me and home plate. They saw me straining to see around them and they did nothing. They heard me ask them to sit down and they thought I was talking to someone else. Finally, in about the fifth inning, I had to go over to them and ask them to sit down. This reduced, but didn't end, the problem.

Two guys sat behind us and had the loudest conversation ever. Actually, it was just one guy, yelling everything. It turned out he was having lady problems because his girlfriend was going to take him to a Reds game for his birthday in a few days and she felt that he had ruined that present by going tonight. She didn't tell him directly until he went home to move his laundry from the washer to the dryer. In fact, she never told him directly at all. For some reason, even though the surprise was ruined, she didn't mention the surprise by name. Maybe it's like Voldemort. Or maybe she's just an idiot. After all, she is dating a man who yells mundane relationship details indiscriminately to his stadium section. How bright can she be? For some reason, those guys left after half an inning.

The stadium sold $16 nachos, but it came in a helmet you got to keep. We did not buy one because we're not stupid, but after the loud guys left, a new group sat behind us. One of them had a helmet nacho. When his friends mocked him, he mentioned the keeping of the helmet as a selling feature. But then he set down his nachos and left, and never came back. So at the end of the game, we stole his helmet and dumped out his remaining nachos.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

What to Expect in the Great Social Reset

At Cato Unbound, one writer sees a weakening of the state as opening the door for a return to clans. Another writer counters that clans are unlikely because the default American institution is the family.

Kling's assertion that family is the default reminded me of an article I read last month, which took a lot of effort to find again, but I'm willing to go all out for you, my lone reader. (Interesting thought exercise for a future post: developing the expected persona of the Lone Reader.) Here the author argues that the popular Libertarian position of "government shouldn't be involved in anyone's marriage at all" lays the groundwork for the end of government's recognition of the family as a legal unit.

This is important because the family shields children from direct control of the state. As much as I agree with the basic principle that we all have the fundamental freedom to be left alone, I was still dumbfounded when the hospital let us leave with our first-born child. All that goes away if the family is no longer a legal unit.

The push for a family-less state is part of annihilism. The revolutionary minority will not tolerate the end of the family. The Great Social Reset could feature much more authoritarian involvement in the family (return of limitations on divorce, for example). I'm not sure about Kling's argument that family trumps clan, since clan could easily be a collection of families. I have a number of families I'd bunker down with, not all of which are my extended family. (Interesting thought exercise for the Lone Reader: do you think you've made my Doomsday invite list? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?) I'm not sure I buy Weiner's argument that clans are necessarily anti-liberal, either. Kinship based clans probably are, but voluntarily-formed clans probably aren't. Those on my Doomsday invite list aren't going to let me go all Colonel Kurtz on them.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

If We Voted With Our Mouths, Saturated Fat Would Win Every Election in a Landslide

Here's an interesting take on where liberals (in the modern sense of the word) and conservatives eat, which I first saw on Marginal Revolution.

What makes the difference? Many of the conservative-heavy places are lower-end, either in cost of a dish or in buffet-style set-up. This shouldn't be too surprising; conservatives are poorer, and have more children. For the most part, restaurants don't seem to cater to a particular affiliation, or to play up any favoritism. There are no ad campaigns for P.F. Chang's featuring the slogan: "Vote like a ChiCom? Eat like a ChiCom!" Most businesses will take money from anyone.

I'm surprised by how low the liberal margin is at Panera, where I always feel like I'm about 30-seconds away from a spontaneous Obama rally breaking out.

Great Social Reset

Just over a year ago, in April 2013, I coined the term "annihilism." It is a play on the term "nihilism," which means the belief that no moral claim has superiority over any other moral claim. Annihilism takes this one step further, and actually finds virtue in the moral claims that would destroy life and society, while finding fault in the moral claims that would preserve life and society. Annihilism argues the best policies for society are those that will most-assuredly destroy society.

I've blogged some about what I see as signs of the rise of annihilism, and I've summarized the pros and cons of the possible responses to this rise. Lately I've come to expect a future response to the rise of annihilism, and I've termed this event the Great Social Reset.

Here's how it'll work: annihilists continue to support activities and programs that many non-annihilists see as contrary to the laws of God. We will soon pass the threshold between private annihilism and coercive public annihilism. In fact, we're making that transition now. What I mean is that the days of one individual deciding to abort a baby and another deciding to not abort a baby are passing and we are entering days of all individuals funding abortion.

Most non-annihilists have tolerated the growth of annihilism because they've told themselves, "If they want to do terrible things, it's not my place to stop them." But how long will people who believe in God and believe God has opinions of right and wrong, how long will such a people allow others to force them to do things they believe God considers wrong?

I believe the answer is "not very long at all."

In short, annihilists have over-played their hand when they start requiring non-annihilists to participate in their behavior. There will be push-back. And this will be the Great Social Reset.

The Great Social Reset doesn't even require that a majority of the population be non-annihilists. Many revolutions involve a minority revolutionary class. It just requires that the revolutionary class be completely committed to resistance. By forcing the non-annihilists to take actions they believe God opposes, the annihilists will ensure the revolutionary class will be completely committed to resistance. Instead of tolerating private annihilism, the non-annihilists will attempt to root out all behavior that led to the crisis. I know Monty Python insists, "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition," but in expecting the Great Social Reset, I might not be that far off. If you meet a man expecting the Spanish Inquisition, don't try to talk him out of it; as was once said of such a man, "You can't Torquemada anything!"

Monday, May 05, 2014

Columbus Crew v. New York Red Bulls

I've written before about my family's shift from American football to soccer. When we visited my sister last month, she said, "I can tell you guys are a soccer family because when I tried to throw a basketball to your son, he trapped it with his feet."

My father's work periodically has these events where you buy tickets to some discounted group function. In December we went with him to the zoo and our kids got to pet a penguin. And in April, we went to a Columbus Crew game and got to be in a pre-game "welcome tunnel," meaning we stood on the field while the players walked out next to us.

Since participation in the welcome tunnel was limited, we made sure to show up on time. We were first in one of the two lines. That is, until some oblivious lady and her family "accidentally" wandered to the front of our line and pretended not to hear me when I explained where the ends of the lines were. Then we were taken to a place where we had to wait for the players to come off the field from their warm-ups. All the players walked right past the heads of the lines. When Thierry Henry came off the field, he slapped hands with the people at the front of the other line. He would have slapped hands with my son if the oblivious lady hadn't cut to the front. Jerome said, "Tell me when Thierry Henry comes by." I felt bad for Jerome that Henry had already come by, but Jerome couldn't see him because he's only six years old and the oblivious lady and her family members were all incredibly overweight.

That part got me frustrated. But the rest was nice. My wife took a picture when Michael Parkhurst and Thierry Henry walked out past us.

She said, "It's weird because they want us on the field to cheer for the players, but everyone is just taking their pictures as they walk past." Also, since they try to reduce aggression in soccer by making the players hold hands with children before the game, the hand-holding kids were between us and the players, reducing the interaction and making it more of an event I'm there to photograph than something in which I'm participating. (And I wasn't about to interact with the aggression-reducing children, who all had stupid hair. Our family called them Justin Bieber FC.)

Both goals were scored at the other end of the pitch, one in each half. My wife bought some of the famous Columbus ice cream we've heard about, that is incredibly over-priced (not because of stadium pricing; even outside the park it's $14 for a pint) and is not that good. It tasted like $2.57-per-1.5-gallons ice cream, with a hint of "I can't believe we paid $7 for a cup" mixed in.

After the game, our three big kids went on the pitch and got to shoot a ball in the goal. (They went five kids at a time. Our kids are the three in the middle of this set.) Jerome and Joe hit the target, while Jane aimed for the bottom corner and missed wide. I think she was worried the mascot was going to actually play goalie, so she had to take a real penalty shot. But in her disappointment, she knows how Roberto Baggio feels.

Keeping It Zipped, Science Edition

Only fools won't admit that getting married doesn't automatically render everyone besides your spouse unattractive. (That said, there are a surprising number of fools in the world.) So what do you do when you are married to Person A and you meet Person B, whom you find attractive?

My long-standing practice: get to know Person B well.

My wife thinks this is a terrible idea. But I think it's great, and here's why. When you have a superficial idea of Person B, your brain fills in the rest, and when your brain has a reason to assign favorable qualities to Person B, it will. So you build up this fantasy of Person B, who quickly becomes more attractive than Person A, because you've been using the same bathroom as Person A for years and have smelled what she can do in there.

Getting to know Person B cuts the legs out from under your brain. You can't invent favorable traits when you know the real ones. I have found it almost always takes only one conversation to severely diminish the attractiveness of Person B. You get to know Person B and now you have a new friend who no longer rivals Person A for your affection.

But it can't always work, right? Unless we're arguing that your spouse is the absolutely most-attractive person in the world to you (which is statistically improbable but a good idea to espouse in public, especially if your spouse is around), it's possible you will meet someone who scores higher on your attractiveness scale. Getting to know this person better will just make you more attracted to him, right?

You've forgotten that, as you've been getting to know Person B, Person B has been getting to know you. And so even if you have become more attracted to Person B, he's probably become less attracted to you. I have found it almost always takes only one conversation to severely diminish the attractiveness of myself.

Here's the abstract of a paper that backs me up. Entitled "Relational Mate Value: Consensus and Uniqueness in Romantic Evaluations," by Eastwick and Hunt (2014), the paper is like a giant seal-of-approval for my practice. Eastwick and Hunt find that "consensus decreased as participants got to know one another better," and "participants' romantic evaluations were more likely to be unique to a particular person rather than consensual." Translation: get to know Person B and you'll probably be less-attracted to him, and even if you aren't, he'll probably be less-attracted to you. In fact, "long-term acquaintances in Study 3 revealed enormous amounts of relationship variance." So I guess every long-term friend you have is either a secret crush of yours or you're his secret crush? Sounds reasonable.

Obvious question: if getting to know your crush makes him non-crush-worthy, or else makes you non-crush-worthy, how does anyone get married? Answer: I have no idea. Even though I've been married for 13 years now, I still get anxious when I ask myself, "How did I get married? How did that work out for me?" It just makes no sense. And how did I avoid marrying a total nut-job? Of course she seemed normal, but she was presenting an attractive version of herself. She wasn't really going to tell me every insane idea she had, was she? And my "due diligence" basically amounted to, "She says we agree on major issues. And check out that ASS! Let's go!"

Basically, every successful marriage is a crazy miracle that can't be explained. I don't know why the divorce rate isn't 99%. Happy (belated) Valentine's Day.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Starvin' for Some Marvin Vs. Actual Just Starving

Late last night, I read this blog post about the efforts of aid organizations to make the public think women are more-effected by famine than men. It seems obvious that this would be a way to gin up support; there's a hierarchy in poverty porn: nobody really cares about poor men, but poor women are intriguing, and poor children are cash cows to aid organizations.

But here's a problem that goes unmentioned: when the victims of famine are presented as being disproportionately women and children, the presentation makes the tacit argument that men are the reason for the inequality. When there's a limited amount of food, if all the people not getting enough are women and children, it must be because men are hoarding food for themselves.

The truth is quite different. Men starve more frequently than women in famine. Is that because men selflessly give their limited food supplies to the women and children they love? I don't know. Schneider notes in his blog post that male animals starve more than female animals, too. Despite what Disney would have you believe, animals rarely roll meatballs with their noses to their peers to signal love. Evolutionarily, making sure your children's mother stays alive is the best way to make sure your children stay alive.

My point, however, is that the story of "jerk men preying on women" changes when you have actual facts. And that might be part of the reason the actual facts are carefully hidden behind pictures of fly-swarmed women and children.

Title referencing the comedy sketch show The State.

Why MyPanera Sucks

My first visit to Panera Bread ($19.84), the cashier did not mention the rewards program to me at all. My second visit to Panera Bread ($13.18), I asked for a card and the cashier said, "We don't have any right now." My third visit to Panera Bread ($29.20), I asked for a card, was told they were out of them, but then was told I could register for an account online. When I registered for an account, I could not get credit for any of my first three visits to Panera Bread because they occurred before I created an account. My fourth visit to Panera Bread ($16.88) I was not asked for my card number and I forgot to supply it. I added the visit to my account from my home computer later. My fifth visit to Panera Bread ($7.51) I was able to get a card, but they couldn't tie the card to my existing account or give me credit for my visit because their Internet connection was down (which is exactly what people want in a Panera Bread, right?).

So now I'm at home, trying to enter the code from my most-recent visit and getting no response from the website after I click "Enter." I cannot tie my existing account to my new card. I have $70 worth of spending that cannot be tied to my account because of unhelpful cashiers, overly-strict rules, or unresponsive websites.

I wanted to start eating at Panera Bread more because it seems like a more-healthful choice than most other restaurants (I am fully aware that this is what they want me to think, and that it might not be true, but it also might be true and it doesn't strain credulity.) But I can get food that is just as healthful at half the price at Subway. They're easier to find--there are seven Subways closer to my house than the closest Panera Bread--and there's never a seating problem at Subway. The last time we took our entire family to Panera Bread, however, we had to eat in two groups a few tables apart from each other, because all the booths that could seat six were occupied by single patrons who were too cool to study in the library where they belonged.

Subway's reward program is not customer-oriented, either, though. A missed visit requires downloading a form, printing it, writing on it, and mailing it with a copy of the receipt. But even that process would complete faster than the frozen Panera Bread tab in my browser, which has been "thinking" the entire time I've been writing this post.