3 More Weird Foods For You To Try (That You Could Totally Make Yourself)

So, I just realized it’s been a while since I talked about food here. And that’s a shame because I REALLY do enjoy preparing, cooking, and trying new meals.

For this installment, I wanted to focus on delicacies that we common folk could prepare ourselves. So let’s dive into gastronomic adventure with…

A-Ping

You’ve heard of fried green tomatoes, but have you ever seen fried hairy spiders?
Source: The Telegraph

We Americans may balk at the idea of eating anything that resembles a bug (though many of us are totally cool with crabs and lobsters for some reason), but in Cambodia, fried tarantulas or A-Ping are the dish that saved the people.

During the reign of Pol Pot, many people were forced into hard labor and starved to death. These hairy buggers then quickly became a primary food source as they were plentiful, easy to harvest (just jam a stick into their nest and pull them out when they bite onto it), and super healthy; having more protein than a 6oz steak. Frying them with sugar, salt and garlic also give them the flavor of marinated fried chicken.

What’s more, they’re cheap. At only a few cents a spider, A-Ping is a major part of the Cambodian economy that almost anyone can grab at a street vendor and families often make a good business selling it.

Rocky Mountain Oysters

Don’t be fooled, friend; that ain’t fried chicken.
Source: The Telegraph

The wise reader will note that The Rocky Mountains are nowhere near the ocean and, therefore, cannot produce oysters. So, what are Rocky Mountain Oysters if not oysters? Well, their alternative name – Montana Tendergroin – may give it away.

That’s right; they’re fried bull testicles.

Like most non-traditional cuts of meat, Rocky Mountain Oysters came out of necessity. After castrating a bull to prevent unauthorized breeding that can lead to injured cattle, what are you supposed to do with his berries? Throwing them away would be wasteful, so why not eat them?

If you’ve ever had a chicken fried steak, these are very similar. Really, they’re no different from any other cut of beef. Once you get over where the meat came from, you may find you enjoy having balls in your mouth (enjoy that one, folks – I don’t get a chance to make raunchy jokes like this often).

Mamajuana

And now, a selection of liquor to complement our strange meal.
Source: Sunrise Villa

And to close out our buffet of the bizarre, let’s booze it up with some tree bark brew (that alliteration was more work than you think, by the way).

Mamajuana is a traditional tincture (that’s fancy-talk for herb-infused alcohol) from the Dominican Republic that contains rum, red wine, honey and a variety of herbs. What’s great is that you can steep this fine drink yourself and can buy the herbs pre-assembled so that they meet all FDA regulations. After that, it’s just a matter of choosing your favorite rum, red wine, and honey in your preferred amounts and let steep for a few days. Best of all, it’s common practice to reuse the herbs for months or even years. So you don’t need to keep buying a new starter kit when you’ve killed the batch. Hooray for exotic eating on a budget!

In addition to being touted as a powerful aphrodisiac, Mamajuana is also often used for fever, body aches, and fatigue. In fact, former Boston Red Sox pitcher and Dominican native Pedro Martinez attributes his teams 2004 World Series Championship victory to taking team building shots of the stuff. So, who knows? Maybe this little brew is just what you need to step up your game.

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My One Sentence Counter To NEARLY ALL Anti-Transgender Arguments

Is that really so hard to give? It’s not exactly a finite resource, you know?
Source: ACLU

So… Trans rights and politics are back in the spotlight again…

It would have been bad enough that our resident Fuqboi-In-Chief (yes, I’m done being respectful towards Donald Trump) wants to bring back the military ban on transgender service men and women. But, on a personal level, it gets worse.

I’ve worked with trans people almost all of my adult life. They’ve been my friends throughout college. They’re fellow writers and thinkers. They’re both my co-workers and my customers at my current job.

So, when not one, but TWO of my co-workers start making snide comments about trans customers behind their backs as they leave – one of whom didn’t even have the basic human decency to avoid using the words ‘f*g’ and ‘tranny’ – on top of all of the political falderal we’re experiencing, you can expect me to start getting a little nettled.

To make matters worse, I couldn’t say anything to them. I can actually get fired for getting into politics and social issues with people on the job because it makes for a ‘hostile work environment.’ I mean, you think the abuse and misuse of ‘safe spaces’ on campus are bad (well, they are, but that’s a different rant for another day)? You’ve clearly never had to share a work space with a bunch of unquestioning, bigoted, cretins before.

So, all I could do at those times was give them the evil eye to tell them to stop (one of the advantages of being a six-foot-four, 250 pound, Scotish-American is that’s usually all it takes to shut someone up). But, intimidation doesn’t address the core issue; they were still thinking based on irrational fear, hate, superstition, or whatever justification caused them to think it was okay to blurt out cruel words.

But, one of the perks of being a blogger is that I can posit my counter-argument in a public forum and, as long as I don’t name exact people and places, there will be no negative repercussions from me exercising my right to free speech. In fact, I can counter just about everything they throw at me with one question: …

… “Why do you even care?”

This is a question I insist that everyone ask themselves before seriously attempting to defend their beliefs because if you don’t have a decent reason to fight in a debate, you’ve already lost.

And wouldn’t you know it, I haven’t heard a good answer to that question from anyone against transgender rights yet.

“But it’s unnatural.” Yeah? So’s 98 percent of everything you use, wear, and eat. Humans are MASTERS at altering the world and themselves to suit their individual needs. If transgender people are wrong because they’re ‘unnatural,’ then you need to give up the synthetic fabrics that make up most of your clothing, the processed food you eat, the products made from selectively bred plants and animals, the metal tools made from alloys that don’t occur in nature, literally EVERYTHING made from plastic, etc.

“Aren’t there health risks involved in the transition?” Yes, there are and I award you points for your genuine concern. But it seems hypocritical that you would be against one human activity with known risks that can be screened and treated when far more dangerous activities like smoking and drinking get a pass… Unless you’re one of those folks that want to ban alcohol and tobacco too which didn’t go well the first time we did it. My point is that people have the freedom to experiment with their own bodies for better or worse. As long as it’s not your body, it’s not your problem.

“But my religion says…” STOP. Your religion is likely TENS OF THOUSANDS of years old. It dates back to the days of a much more limited understanding of how the universe works and enforces archaic laws that just don’t work anymore. You wouldn’t want your child going to school with outdated text books. So why are you using one as the basis of your life?

“I have no problem with trans people. I just wish they weren’t so obvious about it.” Well, I wish that your noxious breath and toothless smile from years of smoking weren’t so obvious, but I still ignore it and treat you like a human being, don’t I (Seriously, both of these people were terrible tobacco abusers and obviously didn’t care for themselves)? Some people just look the way they do. They either don’t want to change or lack the time and resources to change themselves at the moment. The point is that they’re still human and, until and unless they treat you like crap, deserve your consideration.

You see, I have a very simple philosophy: if you aren’t bothering me or anyone I love, I won’t bother you. And on average, the trans-community either leaves me and my kin be or works well with us. What’s more, there’s nothing inherent about being transgender that harms us – meaning any issues I have with trans-people are on an individual, case-by-case basis and not endemic of the whole community.

In short, unless you have irrefutable evidence that the trans-community is planning a global uprising and we are all in grave danger, your argument against them is probably bulls*** and you should just relax; you can be safe in the knowledge that the world isn’t ending just because you have to share it with people that you don’t quite understand.

A Discussion on Men’s Fashion (or “Shut Up About Rompers”)

Shown here: happy, confident men. Not shown: judgment from me.
Source: upgruv.com

Okay, let’s make this one quick so I can get back to more important (read: ‘entertaining’) matters.

Apparently, the latest fad among us digital natives is the mainstream use by man of a piece of fashion once the exclusive domain of women. Yes, we’re talking about the romper meme.

For those who are just as fashion blind as me a mere few hours ago, rompers are, in essence, a one-piece jumpsuit that was worn primarily by women until some dude discovered that they actually do a damn good job of showing off his glutes and didn’t want to miss an opportunity to advertise that he doesn’t skip leg day at the gym.

Of course, that’s not entirely true; men have ALWAYS rocked jumpers like this. It’s just that it’s a big deal now because the speed of information via the internet makes things seem much bigger than they actually are. My earliest experience was in the 1964 movie Goldfinger when the debonair James Bond rocked a stylish, baby blue terry cloth onesie while parading about a swank resort. And I think we can all agree that if it’s good enough for Sean Connery, it’s good enough for anyone.

Look, this isn’t my first rodeo; I’ve seen this kind of thing before. Men have always come under fire for doing things that someone thought were ‘femme’ or ‘girly.’ From shaving body hair to wearing utility kilts to the use of make-up, there’s always some d-bag that can’t handle minor, easily ignored changes and dedicates themselves to making others feel bad about it. All this talk we’re hearing now is the same thing we’ve been hearing since the first millennial man realized that the hair bun was actually a convenient way of wearing long hair.

So, you got all that: It doesn’t matter if you personally think that rompers look awful because YOU DON’T HAVE TO WEAR THEM. And if you’re offended that you have to look at guys in them – TOUGH TITTY. I don’t care for them either, but I can at least respect that it’s the wearer’s call to make and their choice has no effect on me and how I live my own life.

Besides, let’s not lose sight of the REAL fashion criminals; those a-holes at Gucci that charge upwards of $600 to dress up in something that I could make for one-eighth of the price to cosplay at an anime convention.

The Agent’s Secret to Maintaining Positivity

You call it, “overwhelming negativity.” I call it, “thousands of chances for self-fulfillment.”
Source: Zone of Success

Well, my news feed has gotten depressing again.

Threats are being slung back and forth by every which country, the president has failed on every aspect of his 100-day plan and may actually be clinically insane, YouTube’s struggle with advertisers threatens to hurt the careers of many young creatives (thank god for Patreon), and I’m currently living in that weird ‘Seasonal Depression’ Limbo where color and light are returning to the land but rain and allergies prevent me from enjoying them. Long story short: total crap-sack.

Whenever I get like this, I can always count on a bunch of friends and family to send me a bevy of links to pages talking about how to stay happy and positive. And while I do appreciate how much those people do for me in that regard and love them for it, it’s ultimately unnecessary. I’ve spent over 25 years fighting depression, I’ve gotten REALLY good at it, and I’d like to see people take care of themselves instead of babying my big, hairy backside.

So, what’s my secret? Well, as I hinted at in a previous article, I’m a proponent of Albert Camus’s philosophy of ‘The Absurd Hero’ and the idea that life is just a chaotic, meaningless, hot mess that’s structurally shaped to have no purpose other than that which we choose to make for ourselves. It’s a pessimistic – maybe even nihilistic worldview, but it’s one that has the power to release you from your own self-imposed constraints. Once you stop freaking out about how devoid of anything your life is by default, you start to realize just how much of your own meaning you can fill it with. It’s a blank canvas for you to create your LITERAL life’s work.

For example, I’m part of a body positivity group on Facebook. One day, a very sweet girl, posted pictures of her new outfit and make-up. Me, being the huge nerd I am, geeked out telling her cool I thought she looked because her thin but athletic frame made her look like Envy from Full Metal Alchemist. It was only long after I posted it that my ‘normie-filter’ switched back on and said, “you just compared a really cute girl to a shapeshifting, gender-fluid, boy in a skirt, you clod.” But, much to my relief, it turned out that she identified as androgynous and that was the highest compliment anyone had ever paid her. The fact that she was so happy after that lifted me up with her. That’s the meaning – the purpose – I prescribe to my life; to lift others up to heights above me that I can bask in their joy.

The important thing to remember in all of this is that happiness is not an eternal reward like we’re often taught it is. Instead, it’s a constant struggle to shape the nothing of your chaotic life into something you can love. I expect positivity to fade with time. And, in an odd way, it needs to in order to remind us to appreciate the joy we have.

As for all of the negativity we experience, that’s just the struggle of other people trying to shape their own purposeful lives bleeding into ours and the sabre-rattling of people trying to reconcile their differences of purpose. It sucks, but that’s why my, “it’s my job to make as many people happy as I can,” goal is so important to me; because it enriches my life as much as it does theirs.I know I’m not going to change every life, but I can see when I DO make difference to someone. And that’s enough to, if not keep me positive, make me positive for as long as I need to be.

I know I’m not going to change every life, but I can see when I DO make difference to someone and I can certainly spread that peace of mind to as many people as I can. That’s enough to, if not keep me positive, make me positive for as long as I need to be to get the job done. And when it is done, well, it’s time for some rest before moving on to the next one.

Struggle and fulfillment. Dark and light. Negative and positive. Life isn’t a box of chocolates, Forrest. It’s a two-stroke combustion engine; the day you give up on your struggle is the day you stop gassing it up.

The Agent on YouTube’s Restricted Mode and The Value Of Uncensored Debate

“This video is restricted because some people can’t handle a mature critical discussion on some topics. Sorry about that.”
Source: The Independent

What is this; the third – maybe fourth time I’ve had to weigh in on a YouTube policy change? You guys could circumvent a lot of this bulls*** if you just gave us some details before you made the change.

Anyway, for those of you not keeping up with the new media, YouTube recently went live with a new ‘Restricted Mode’ feature that had some, shall we call it, unforeseen effects.

The goal of Restricted Mode is to give viewers the option to hide content that some may deem as questionable such as violence, profanity or sexual situations. And believe it or not, I totally understand why they would want to do this.

Let’s not forget, YouTube is a business first and foremost. Their first priority is to placate their advertisers, shareholders, and viewers. So, anything that might be counter-intuitive to an advertiser/viewer’s interests – say having their ad for a new children’s movie just before a video of a particularly foul-mouthed Let’s Player who uses f-bombs like vocal punctuation or having their five-year-old stumble upon the same – might scare them away.

But, the problem arises from what kind of content gets blocked when Restricted Mode is active; namely people weighing in on LGBT politics. Most of them are not even talking about gay sex, mind you; They’re just chiming in on the politics of queer culture.

I think the problem is pretty obvious and it’s a problem that asexuals like myself encounter routinely – people conflating relationships with sex. YouTube saw the phrase ‘LGBT’ show up and just ASSUMED it was about sex without actually checking the content. I assure you, talking about romance or being in love doesn’t AUTOMATICLY imply someone is bumping uglies and we need to stop think like it does.

Of course, this wave of (very likely) accidental anti-LGBT censorship is endemic of a bigger problem that I have with YouTube’s Restricted Mode and censorship in general. Simply put, I’m against censorship because is restricts discourse from both sides of a debate and thereby halts social progress. It’s a pretty simple chain of logic to follow; if neither side is allowed to talk about something, how can they debate it in order to solve any problems with it?

It’s for this reason that I support YouTubers like Count Jackula who dedicate regular live-streams to debates with fans and fellow creators or Armored Skeptic who often makes debunking videos pointing out logical fallacies in other people’s arguments. Yes, things often get very heated, people will get offended, and I frequently disagree with them on at least one point. But at the end of the day, they offer a perspective that made me think and that surge of critical thought is what we need more than anything else in this societal landscape.

That having been said, I can still see where YouTube is coming from in terms of business. It needs some kind of system to please the people that make them money. So, what we need is a common ground… and I think I have it.

Firstly, STOP CONFLATING RELATIONSHIPS WITH SEX. I will scream this 24/7 until I go mute from the scar tissue building up on my larynx.

Secondly, I suggest giving more control to what shows up in viewer searches by employing a sort of ‘ADVANCED Restricted Mode’ that allows the user to select what kind of content gets filtered out based on what they personally don’t want to see. It’s not ideal and those people will still be very likely to miss out on mind-expanding discussions, but it’s probably the best we can do until we can build that utopian society where people’s anuses don’t slam shut like steel security vault doors everytime they hear something that threatens their fragile reality.

The Final Philosophy of The Binding of Isaac: Christianity, Satanism, and Accepting Your Sins

At long last, Isaac’s nightmare is at a close…
Source: Steam Community

You’d think that with my history of gushing about the greatness of The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth that I would have written a think piece on its final DLC, Afterbirth +, long ago. But, I wanted to get a feel for the game before I actually sat down to pontificate on it. It was a good thing I did that too because this game gave me a lot to think about.

Anyone who has played the game (or has just read the title and knows their bible stories) can tell you that Christianity is a running theme of the story. But, very few people discuss TBoI‘s associations to Satanism. Of course, one can infer that a story that praises or decries Christianity will likely be touching on Satanism by virtue of how the two are linked. But after doing some light research, I was shocked to see just how much there was to unpack.

First things first, I want to make it clear that this article takes NO OFFICIAL STANCE on either Christianity or Satanism as the superior moral practice. This is purely about comparing the two philosophies and putting them into a modern, progressive context so that everyone of any religious or non-religious background can benefit from it.

Secondly, I’d like to give a huge shout out to horror movie critic and open-practicing Satanist Jack ‘Count Jackula’ Shen for informing a lot of the research I did for this article – especially his semi-in-character rant on why he chose to convert to Satanism and his thoughtful debate on applying Satanic philosophy to social media. Even if you don’t buy into his beliefs, he’s still a funny and insightful man that I’ve supported for some time (you can actually see my name at the top of his credit rolls in his movie reviews from when I helped fund his new editing rig). I also wish to apologize to Jackula in advance if I’ve misinterpreted anything I may have gleaned from his discussions.

Getting back to TBoI, this new DLC gave us a pair of new main story endings that tie together with the previous endings and share a common theme; Isaac is found dead in his toy chest but is soon seen again walking through an empty field resembling the hills overlooking his house.

Another theme that pervades the game is Isaac’s guilt. Not only has he grown up in a VERY strict Christian household that reinforces the idea that he is evil and shames him for his sins, but the scenes that unfold suggest that he’s also from a broken home without a father and that he blames himself for his parent’s divorce. This guilt (or ‘sin’ if you will) manifests as a shadowy devil-like figure that lives inside Isaac and that he routinely becomes.

This is the core belief that both Christianity and Satanism share; all people, regardless of faith or lifestyle, are inherently flawed and ‘sinful’. The difference is that while Christianity believes that morality is to repress sinful nature and shame those who fail to do so, Satanism believes morality is to accept one’s sins as normal so that one can focus on doing right by themselves before moving on to others.

I propose the following; Isaac’s death is not a literal death. Rather, it’s the death of his ego. He’s finally grown up, come to terms with his ‘sinful’ flaws, and is ready to form a new, healthy moral code of his own rather than adopting the one he’s been force fed by family and a millennia old fable that, admittedly, is overdue for re-examination.

In short, Isaac has finally learned a lesson that is so often overlooked in both devout and non-religious lifestyles: Moral Relativism.

Now, am I preaching the virtues of Satanism over those of Christianity? Absolutely not. Firstly, Satanism eschews the idea of virtue by its definition (remember, it’s all about EMBRACING sin instead of repressing it). And secondly, I’m far too much of a free-thinking skeptic to accept any religious ideology entirely.

That said I do believe that good ideas can come from all religion; even one that embraces a figure that many consider the embodiment of evil (I guess that would make me a bit of an Agnostic Omnitheist, but I’m not one to care for labels). And I have to admit that the idea that we are all damned souls no matter what, while pessimistic, takes the painful edge off of our failures.

We can’t always be good people; it’s impossible. Eventually, you’ll be forced to do something that some will call ‘evil’ for the sake of yourself or another or that will make you question your own morality. However, you can always strive to be the best you can reasonably expect and not let yourself be deterred by your missteps.

You can’t be a good person. However, either by the virtues of God or by the sins of The Devil, you can be a decent one.

Three Things We Were Told Are Bad But Are Good If Used Properly (and How To Do Them Wrong)

“Sola dosis facit venenum.” The dose makes the poison.

This is the most basic principle of the study of Toxicology. It’s the simple fact that anything can be made lethal or even just detrimental by misusing or abusing it.

So why do so many people still insist that some things are just plainly bad for you?

I hate the idea of being told that something has no practical benefit and I often check out as soon as someone that thinks that way speaks. To me, it’s an indicator of narrow-minded and unquestioning thinking that I have no respect for.

So today, let’s discuss the things that we are told will put us in an early grave that, in reality, can be beneficial as long as you aren’t stupid about using them.

Marijuana

Eh, I would have put the snakes and the staff head around and on top of the center leaf, but the point is clearly made. Source: Weedist

Eh, I would have put the snakes and the staff head around and on top of the center leaf, but the point is clearly made.
Source: Weedist

As always let’s get the big one out of the way from the get-go.

EVERYBODY knows that there is a long list of medical uses for marijuana. What’s more, the LD50 (the dosage of a substance required to cause death in 50 percent of cases) of THC is so astronomically high as to be practically impossible; especially when you compare it to its effective dosages and even MORE especially when you compare it to the LD50 of alcohol and tobacco.

That said, you CAN get stupid with the stuff. People whose brains are still developing (read: under 18) are at risk for a loss of mental faculties and, needless to say, you shouldn’t be driving or operating heavy machinery while under the influence. But seeing as those problems tend to drop off after legalization, the problem seems self-correcting. Still, it’s best to bake responsibly.

Caffeine

As someone who works overnight shifts for a living, I practically live on coffee. So all that caffeine can’t be good for me, right?

Well, much like our friend weed above, the ratio of caffeine’s effective dose and its LD50 are massive. You would need to drink 80 to 100 cups of coffee in one sitting to have a 50/50 shot at getting penciled in for a visit from Azrael.

That said, it’s not impossible. Reported deaths from caffeine overdoses are usually from those abusing pep pills or mainlining pure caffeine. And that’s to say nothing of the risks of Stimulant Psychosis that comes with abuse; especially for those who already suffer Psychosis through conditions like Schizophrenia.

But, for most normal and healthy humans, even the withdrawal symptoms are more like minor hindrances than serious issues. Just make sure that you stick to the coffee and energy drinks for your buzz.

Video Games

Can we start calling IQ points 'Brain Levels?

Can we start calling IQ points ‘Brain Levels?” I feel that would make my life more fun.
Source: LifeHacker

Not a drug, I know. But it’s still an issue… Why it’s still an issue I’ll never know.

All my life I was told that Video Games were bad for me and that I was going to grow up to be a mentally warped, violent freak for playing them.

But here’s the thing, while games can increase aggressive tendencies (as most competitive activities do), evidence shows the rate of violent crime DROPS with new major releases as a result of providing a time waster for those destructive desires. Also, as I mentioned last week, gaming provides useful mental exercise for those looking to keep their minds sharp.

But on the subject of exercise, let’s not forget that gaming is a largely sedentary hobby. So, it may behoove you to drop the controller once an hour to go on a 10-minute walk. Also, maybe we should replace the chips and energy drinks we often nurse with roasted nuts and iced tea.