Thursday, September 29, 2011

Team of Rivals - Finding the Truth Through Your Associations

As I was driving through the gray rain of a Thursday morning commute today, my music player tuned me into a podcast from the awesome folks at One of the segments was an interview with Brooke Gladstone, host and managing editor of On The Media, a radio show about, well, the media. Very meta.

The interview was a hilarious discussion about Gladstones journey around the world and through her career with various media organizations, and ended with a question and answer session with the audience. In that portion, someone asked an incredibly insightful question about the proliferation and diversification of media sources in our time, and how that affects consumption. Simply put, we get our information from so many different sources today, as compared to our grandparents who watched a handful of television channels, listened to a few radio stations, and read the local newspaper for all of their media consumption. So how does that affect what and how we consume?

Brooke referred to a concept coined by Cass Sunstein, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, known as incestuous amplification. The basic premise of incestuous amplification is that when you surround yourself with people who share the same beliefs and philosophies as your own, you begin to remove a majority of dissenting ideas from your view, thereby seeing the world through a more narrow defining reality. Soon, you only see the world as you believe it is (or should be), and can be oblivious to alternative views.

Arguably, this homophony of perception is running rampant in our government today. Politicians gather in their gaggles of tunnel visioned, party line-cadres, filling each other with vitriolic fervor. As they demonize the other side of the aisle, they often fail to see anything from their soap-box rivals as having an ounce of merit, even when it is a concession or political olive branch. Any chance for bi-partisan conversation is quelled by hate-speech and finger-pointing.

This is evident in daily life as well. We as Americans get into our own bubbles of contextualized news aggregation. Either we are listening to the left-wing whispers of NPR while watching MSNBC and reading the Huffington Post, or we are watching FOX News while listening to Rush Limbaugh and reading Sarah Palin's newest rant about bears. In whichever camp you fall, the fault is equal. You are not getting the full picture.

It was said that when Abraham Lincoln gathered his cabinet, he brought together a "Team of Rivals" (also the name of a recent biography of the 16th President). He refused to surround himself with "yes men", who would drink whatever Kool-Aid he fed them. He wanted his advisors to challenge his ideologies, thereby forcing him to defend himself ferociously before making a fool of himself vociferously.

I believe that, even though the majority of us will never be faced with the challenges that Lincoln dealt with, we can take a cue from this renaissance man's tactics. Force yourself to read news from a source that contradicts your own beliefs. Talk politics with friends that you know you don't agree with. Listen to the other sides ideas. And while doing so, remember to be respectful of those beliefs, as you would like them to be. Don't start a yelling match, but rather approach the conversation as an attempt to learn why they believe the things they do.

When I taught Business Communication at Black Hawk College in Kewanee, Illinois, I had an hour commute, three days a week, to that rural campus outside the "Hog Captial of the World" (self proclaimed). I generally listened to Iowa Public Radio for the first half of the drive, until I lost signal in the rolling hills of the Mississippi river valley. Unable to get anything other than pop-country and farm reports, I would then flip over to the AM dial and tune into Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. I will admit that I am more an NPR listener than a conservative radio consumer (though please don't assume that this fact makes me a left-wing liberal. My politics are multi-faceted and complex). But over the course of my commute, I actually enjoyed listening to what the far-right conservative yellers had to say. By engaging in this inadvertent political discourse, I was given two very different views of the world, and was able to piece together what I consider a well-rounded view of what was happening in our country's political landscape.

Since then, I have tried to continue to surround myself with people who do not necessarily agree with my political and philosophical views. If I had to come up a list of my personal "Team of Rivals", I might include:

My father Dave Walljasper
My Uncle Jim Engler
My Uncle Doug Walljasper
My previous employer Todd McGreevy
A few of my best friends Mark Shoemaker, Brian Wilcoxon, Adam Lovinggood, Matt Hobbs, and Chris Stemple
My cousins Adam Overberg and Casey Overberg
My old Scoutmaster, Jim Eads
My wife, Annie Walljasper

Some of these folks have extremely different views of the world than I do. Others are very similar to my thoughts. Most are somewhere in between. But together, they've helped me shape the way I see the world around me, and for that, I respect all of their views, no matter how contradictory they may be to my own.

And that, in today's society, is a revolutionary idea that I believe could truly start a renaissance.


Monday, September 26, 2011

SkyMall - The Adventure Continues

I couldn't let these SkyMall gems get away without comment. The folks at SkyMall obviously scour the world for the newest in fashion, convenience, and technology. These are prime examples:

As if this guy could have a more flaky look in the picture to the left. Then he slides his glasses down, through the bill of his hat, and removes all doubt.

I would argue that anyone who is this serious about their sports teams and/or their eye protection is a flake. I try not to judge people by their looks alone, but this look is so strong, it is hard to do anything but shiver.

Note that, if you aren't a die hard sports fan, you can also get the SunCap as a boonie hat. A perfect gift for that gopher-hunting, Dali Llama-assisting, Bill Murray from Caddyshack-type in your life. As long as you want to publicly humiliate said person.

SkyRest Travel Pillow
"This person is able to sleep comfortably in any seat! Can you say the same?"

No. I cannot say the same. If I had that creepy of a mustache, I'd be afraid to go to sleep, for fear that my upper lip would eat me in my sleep.

Not to mention the fact that if I inflated a SkyRest in public, I'd probably be thrown out of the plane for being such a jerk.

The Dallas Morning News is quoted as saying, "But you can be...more comfortable with a SkyRest pillow...Simply lean forward and snooze, and the miles will fly by." I have a feeling that SkyMall edited the full quote, which was something to the affect of, "Ever think to yourself, I'm glad I'm not THAT big of an idiot? But you can be, all while being more comfortable with a SkyRest pillow"

The SkyRest, for those times when you just can't think of another way to piss off your seat partner.

Kenzie Covers
What better way to show how much you love America than by wearing it on your muzzle? Avoid breathing in the noxious fumes of terrorism, avian bird flu, and that smelly guy on the train.

Not feeling patriotic? Now you can customize your mask. Always wish you could wear an impressive creeper-stache like the guy in the picture above? Print it on your safety mask!

Or maybe you just need to complete your ninja outfit with a super ninja respirator - a la Shredder's foot soldiers in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Whatever design you choose, you're sure to find a breath of fresh air in these masks.

The Pillow Tie
Your eyes do not deceive you. The pillow tie is exactly what it sounds like.

By day, a symbol of corporate professionalism. By mid-afternoon, a soft cushion for your meeting-induced migraine. Simply blow a few puffs of air into the nozzle and find yourself quickly on your way to la la land.

And yes, the item above is a Mustache Mirror. A mirror, with mustaches painted on it. Genius.

Please note the simple, easy to use pictorial diagram under the Pillow Tie, using the same artist as those nonsensical emergency water landing brocures found in the back pocket of the airplane seats. Right next to the SkyMall...

And we've come full circle.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

SkyMall - Where Dreams Come True

You may have heard of the magical wonders held within the pages of SkyMall - The mail-order catalogue found in the back seat pockets of airplanes. If you aren't familiar, just unscrunch your legs next time you're in the sky, look past the barf-bag and the water landing tutorial, and I'm certain that you'll find a tattered periodical filled with products that you've only dreamed of.

I've taken the liberty of highlighting a few of the wonders I found in my issue of SkyMall below. This is only a peek into the ingenuity that can be found inside.

For the Pets

The Potty Porch
As a pet owner who is also an apartment dweller, I've always thought to myself, "I love having a big dog in a tiny space, but you know what is missing?"

"A box full of dog piss."

Yep. I'd say that I'd rather have an astro-turf box of urine in place of where my recliner should be.

The headline reads, "Go ahead and sleep in late this weekend, your dog has a yard of his own". So now, you are not only a cruel dog owner, you're also a lazy one.

So strap on that doggie sweater that you've been waiting to put on little Rover, and complete the humiliation of your canine friend.

At least they can now be humiliated in the privacy of your own loft.

 The Litter Kwitter 3-Step Cat Toilet Training System
 Holy crap. Where do I begin with this one?

First, let me draw your attention to the deranged look on the cat in this picture. This animal is pissed that her owner is not only forcing her to sit on a toilet, but that she is being photographed as well. She's thinking,

"Stop stealing my soul with your devil box!"

In eight short weeks of grappling with your feline, overcoming scratches and bites, not to mention your cat urinating all over you out of spite, you can have an animal that loathes you even more than you originally thought possible.

It even comes with a training DVD. Can't wait for that one.

The Hidden Litter Box and The Dog-Off Deluxe
Instead of letting your cat ruin your potted plants on their own time, why not lead them straight to the deciduous destruction?

Then when your botanist friends come over, you can try to convince them that you've bio-engineered a new breed of CatShit Fern, with Kittie-Litter Berries.

I don't know what's going on with the dog in this picture, but I have a feeling he's just angry about what is happening to this fern.

Or that he's being deluxed by something called a "Dog-Off". I'd be upset too.

Lost in Space - Head Cases 

SkyMall seems to have a ridiculous number of space-aged contraptions that go around your head.

iGrow Laser Hair Rejuvination Treatment

This particular bit of headgear is designed to stimulate hair growth and rejuvination. With a glowing infra-red halo around your cranium, the hair will be sprouting within a few months. In the mean time, your current follicle stock will be grooving to the rave that is thumping on your naked frontal lobe.

Did I mention that it includes iPod compatibility for those of you who are worried about looking cool while donning this hair-helmet?

Don't worry. This is obviously a device that is designed for the fashion conscious.

It even comes with a remote control. Because they know that you'll never want to take the thing off your noggin.

iRestore Hair Laser
Why is it that everyone thinks that the best way to make a new device sound cutting edge is to add a lower-case "i" to the name?

I blame Apple marketing.

This hair growth helm is not officially sanctioned by apple, but it may be a licensed accessory for the Nintendo Wii. Batteries not included.

This contraption also has the signature, "Your hair is here to party in a 2028-spaceman sort of way" red glow. This is so that everyone you meet knows that your head likes to party.

Modes of Travel
If you are tired of rising fuel costs, looking lame by taking public transportation, or the drag of rush hour traffic, this is the sweet ride you've been looking for!

What better way is there to get around, all the while looking like a bad ass? Take the awesomeness of using a skateboard, add the freedom of roller skates, and throw in the roundness the hula hoop for good measure. What do you get? Orbitwheels!

Just strap on these fashionable O-rings, and slide down the walk like Marty McFly in Back to the Future 2 (minus the puffy vest or the coolness of Michael J. Fox).

Be sure to wear your helmet to protect your cranium from the bludgeoning you are sure to receive when you are seen in public with these things on.

Ballistic Shoes by Gravity Defyer
Do these shoes have a spermatozoa as their mascot?!

There is nothing that says "Speed, Comfort, and Agility" like semen and springs. I'd imagine that these shoes are particularly affective while swimming.

This ladies shoe was designed with the ladies foot in mind, taking form elements from the male phallus and using it to sculpt the perfect running shoe.

The Ballistic shoe is lab tested for it's virility, producing short bursts of speed, and it's desire to cuddle after a particularly rousing jog.

Notice the random numbers with adjacent colors that make you think there was true scientific analysis completed.

Try them for yourself, risk free for 60 days! Please note that the only true, risk free form of running shoe is abstinence. Avoid risk, don't run.

SkyMall - The Sky is the Limit

These are just a few of the amazing items that can be found within the lofty pages of the SkyMall The wonders held within are endless, and include furniture, clothing accessories, and appliances. Ever want an eighty inch, blow up television for your back yard? How about a life size statue of a giraffe? Take to the sky, and let the SkyMall make your life complete.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Whats on YOUR Playlist?

As I have started a new job recently, I've been engaged in more small-talk than I care for with people who, for the most part, are very different than I. Because of that, I have grown to simultaneously love and hate this question:

"What kind of music do you listen to?"
The problem is that I have such varied interests in such eclectic genre's of music, that I cannot provide the simple, two-to-three sentence answer they are looking for. This is perfectly illustrated by the playlist that formed itself on my phone as I was flying to Kansas City this weekend. I tapped "shuffle all", inserted my earbuds, and began flipping through SkyMall. This is what the music gods bestowed on my auricles:

"Kinky Reggae" - Bob Marley & the Wailers
"Blindsided" - Bon Iver
"Cocoon" - The Decemberists
"Allentown" - Billy Joel
"Le Valse du Ballard" - Amede Ardoin
"Dodging the Wind" - Joe Pug
"Talkin' World War III Blues" - Bob Dylan
"Greatest Hustler of All" - Old Crow Medicine Show

I wouldn't know how to explain this lineup to anyone. Most people who I know do not listen to such a hodge-podge of genres, time frames, and perspectives. But for me, each of these has its personal reason for showing up on my list, so its place in the playlist is perfectly justified. Here's what I mean:

Bob Marley & the Wailers

Bob Marley joined my collection after a semester of teaching Speech Communication at Black Hawk College in Kewanee. The class was a three hour marathon every Monday night during the fall semester. For the most part, the students were great. They were engaged, interested, and as alert as you could be at seven o'clock at night.

I gave an assignment about halfway through the semester, directing each student to research a person that they admired, and give a presentation on that person. I don't remember any of the other details of the assignment - it was a speech class, so I was trying to mix it up a bit. One of the students, a scrawny white kid with stringy blonde hair that recalled Kurt Cobain's mop, decided to do his speech on Bob Marley. He came up to me after I assigned the project,

"So, uh, Mr. Walljasper - Check this out...I'm going to give my speech on Bob Marley...and I can probably go first, if you want...I'm already prepared...I know his whole life, did you know that when he was --"

I cut him short, "I appreciate your excitement for the project. How do you know so much about Bob Marley?"

"I been listening to his music since I was like ten. I've read a ton about him."

"Great. You can use those things as sources. You'll need to cite where you got the information from, as we discussed in class."


If I remember correctly, he did a mediocre job of citing his sources, as most did. But his speech was one of the most impassioned displays of admiration for the life and cause that Bob Marley so adamantly preached. I was genuinely inspired and intrigued, so I went out and get a couple of Bob Marley albums. And I love them.

"Blindsided" - Bon Iver

Bon Iver is a project by musician Justin Vernon. I love the story behind this album, which is why I bought it to begin with. That and the fact that I'd heard a couple of the songs, and loved the stripped down, repetitive, haunting melodies he creates.

It is said that one fall, Vernon simultaneously faced the break up of his band, his relationship, and a bout with mono within days of one another. His response was to take off for his parents cabin in northern Wisconsin. While holed up in the woods of the north all winter, he recorded this album.

The romantic setting for this album's creation definitely adds to its joy for me. I love the idea of getting away from every distraction, every annoyance, and simply pouring yourself into your craft for months at a time.

"Cocoon" - The Decemberists

My friend Michael introduced me to The Decemberists in college. I remember playing the song "Crane Wife 3" over and over again, being completely speechless as I listened to the wordplay that Colin Meloy articulated as he recounted this ancient far east tale. It was this band that showed me that modern music can be poetry.

"Allentown" - Billy Joel

Billy Joel was always playing in my childhood. I always saw him as an American institution, beside John Mellencamp, Bob Seger, and Bruce Springsteen. I loved dancing around to the upbeat hits like "Only the Good Die Young" and "Moving Out".

Now I love Joel for his cultural relevancy as well. Songs like "Allentown" and "Goodnight Saigon" are indelible markers of a shift in our culture. These reflections on dying towns and dying soldiers offer insight into our country and its journey from "The Greatest Generation" to "Generation X".

"Le Valse du Ballard" - Amede Ardoin

As many know, I own an accordion (two actually). I love to play these unique instruments. So when my friend Brian ran across Amede Ardoin, he knew that had to send it my way.

Ardoin is known as one of the preeminent creole accordion players at the turn of the century. His carefree french vocals and lightning fast accordion are both marvels and joys to listen to. Every time Ardoin come on, I cannot help but smile.

"Dodging the Wind" - Joe Pug

Joe Pug falls into an interesting genre of music that is very difficult to label. In the mid 90's, they  deemed it "Alt-Country", a term that is still thrown around today. Others call it "Americana". If I were to describe it, I would call it Rock-a-billy meets folk meets the alternative music scene of the nineteen ninety's. Add in the strong, silent sensibilities of John Wayne and my grandfathers, and you might be close.

Brian also turned me on to Joe Pug. The thing that I love the most about this artist is that he is also an amazing lyricist. The phrases turned in his songs that make you go back and listen again. He is still a rising musician, but I have a feeling he will be reaching serious acclaim soon.

"Talkin' World War III Blues" - Bob Dylan

"Talkin' World War III Blues" is one of my favorite songs by Bob Dylan. I know it is not his most famous, but it is truly a masterful pastiche of whimsy and peculiarity. I've heard that Dylan denies any political or cultural commentary in his music, but perhaps by writing music about what he saw, Bob Dylan was making a profound statement on the nature of the world. This song is a perfect example of that.

"Greatest hustler of all" - Old Crow Medicine Show

Old Crow Medicine Show is similar to Joe Pug in their inability to be succinctly labeled. With Old-time Country influences, bluegrass instrumentation and vocals, folk themes, and outlaw country attitudes, there website calls it "American Roots Music". If that sheds light, good. If not, check them out.

I've played dozens of their songs, most of the time while drinking whiskey with good friends. The song "Wagon Wheel" is one of their more famous songs, and one that always brings back fond memories.

As you can see, all the music I listen to is steeped in context and memory. And that is how I feel it should be. Seldom do I listen to music that I have no connection to, unless it is upon the recommendation of a friend, and I am exploring new artists. But listening to the top 40, because it is the top 40, is not a good reason to listen to music.

Maybe the question, rather than "What kind of music do you listen to?", should be "Why do you listen to the music that you do?"

I think that would invoke a more engaging response.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Peace, Love, and Turkeys

With the tenth anniversary of September 11th this last Sunday, everyone has been sharing perspectives and memories of that fateful day.

St. Basil's Catholic Church, Overlooking Lake Michigan
I labored to determine what I could bring to the table that hasn't been said a million times already. Then on Sunday morning, Annie and I attended church at Saint Basil's Catholic Church in South Haven, Michigan. the sanctuary is a simple white worship space, with blue leaded glass marching alongside worn oak pews, all paying homage to a simple crucifix at the head of the altar.

The service was pleasant, complete with off-key cantors and snoozing grandfathers. Then the priest approached the altar to give his sermon. This portion of the mass always makes me hesitant when I visit a new parish. It's difficult to gauge the sociopolitical topics that may come out in the sermon, and on this of all days, September 11th, 2011, I was leery.

The priest allayed all my fears when he began to speak. He spoke about forgiveness. He spoke about forgiving our neighbors, forgiving our enemies, and forgiving the people who inflicted all that death, pain, and fear a decade ago.

Franklin the Turkey's official response to 9/11

So I finally realized what I can contribute to the September 11th conversation. Partially inspired by the sermon of forgiveness last Sunday, slightly spurred from the patriotic color schemes of the republican debate on Tuesday, and largely born out of the America-loving emotions that came to me while watching Rocky IV (the one with the Russians) last night, I've come up with the below image. Most of the credit goes to Franklin the Turkey.
However you remember September 11th, I ask that you do so with forgiveness and love. It is time to move forward and continue to build a peaceful world, rather than live in fear and hatred. I'm not saying that we remove all defenses against attacks from enemies, domestic and foreign alike. I am merely saying that we ought to move past the over-inflated military and defense spending, instead focusing on our education, infrastructure, and quality of life concerns in the United States.

Sorry if that got a bit soap-box. Not trying to evoke vitriol.

I'm proud to be an American. Especially when Lee Greenwood is playing.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My Tip on Gratuity

I walked into a little ice cream shop this weekend with the woman of my dreams. The shop was quaint, opened in South Haven, Michigan as an ice cream parlor and soda fountain in 1958, and has blossomed into a local treasure, served in restaurants and shops across the southwest Michigan landscape.

As we walked in, an over-sized blue bovine stood majestically on the roof of the building, heralding the milk-based confectionery treats inside. The place was bustling with smiling children, young lovers, and courteous high schoolers in aprons and blue shirts that proudly bore the name “SHERMAN'S ICE CREAM”

As we strode from side-to-side, peering hungrily into all the cardboard buckets that stood deliciously behind neon-lit glass cases, these modern day soda-jerks truly impressed me. Instead of the ever-frustrating, disinterested rapport that I get from most attendants at eateries and shops I engage, these three ice cream-doling attendants were thrilled to help us make our decisions on dessert.

Let me share the way I approach my waitstaff. I enjoy engaging my servers. If I can glean an honest and enthusiastic response from a waiter or server, their chances of receiving not only gratuity, but also my heartfelt respect, increase exponentially. If, when I ask my server for a recommendation, they make an earnest recommendation, it truly impresses me. When you add value to my experience, rather than merely taking my order, you've immediately earned my respect as a person who cares about the service they provide.

This is a perspective that I gained as someone who's worked in a tip-driven industry. So when these folks at Sherman's offered this top-notch service, it was the least I could do to tip them each a buck or two. But as we walked out, I said to my wife,

"Someday, I'd like to be able to walk into that ice cream shop, receive great service, and hand each one of those kids twenty dollars. Not because I want to flaunt my wealth, but because I truly appreciate the zeal that they show for their jobs."
Some people may see that as a waste of money. Some may see it as a a silly way to spend ones hard earned cash. But I see it as true appreciation. I see it as commendation for a job well done.

That being said, I am not afraid to leave a sub-par tip for a server who is snooty, bored, or treating me like I'm an inconvenience to their evening. But more often than not, I am a sympathetic tipper.

I have this mentality because I have been tipped well after working my ass off. There's nothing that keeps you going like someone walking up to you, palming you a handfull of bills and saying,

"Thank you."

Then again, there was the time that a centenarian woman with false teeth slipped a twenty dollar bill in my apron pocket, kissed me on the cheek, and pinched my ass.

That was OK too. But I'll stick to tipping.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Love: A Retrospective

Two years ago, on a cool September Saturday, I publicly and state-sanctimoniously dedicated my life to the woman of my dreams. Our marriage was an exhaustingly joyous occasion, filled with kind words, bad dancing, and tear-filled love.

This weekend, to commemorate that twelfth day of September, Annie and I decided to spend a couple days in Michigan, enjoying naught but the company of ourselves, and our little Basset Hound, Ellie.

Sherman's Ice Cream. Seriously Delicious.
The weekend was filled with beach walks, afternoon naps, and Sherman's Ice Cream. Sprinkle in some living room-dancing and outdoor showers, and it was exactly the restful weekend that we needed.

This weekend also gave me the opportunity to reflect on what our marriage means to me. We've been a committed couple for about seven years, and as our lives have changed, so to have our ideas on what it means to be a loving half of a successful marriage. Here are some of the things that I've determined. Consider it a letter to a younger self. Or to the future me. Or whatever:

  • Share your ice cream. Even if its the last bite, and you were really looking forward to it.
  • When you get into an argument, and you know that you are right, be happy with that knowledge. You will not convince her otherwise and, even if you do, you will only feel bad for making her cry.
  • When she's scared, stay awake until she falls asleep. The alternative is a tireless night of semi-conscious deliberation on the feasibility of demonic possession, alien abduction, and/or serial torture.
    The Love of My Life.
  • Be excited when she has some zany craft project or hair-brained recipe to try. It wont always work out, and will often lead to frustration, an argument, or an expensive purchase that she never uses again. But when it does work, it will be amazing, delicious, and completely worth it.
  • Listen to your wife when she tells you not to wear that shirt. Or pants. Or tie. She is looking out for your best interest. And your lack of fashion sense.
  • Enjoy those weekend afternoons that you have nothing to do. They become scarce as time goes on, so take advantage of laying around in your underwear, enjoying the company of your love.
  • Claim your farts. It's much more noble than blaming them on the dog.
  • Walk the dog with your wife. It is a dedicated time where you have nothing else to do but talk. If you don't have a dog, walk your cat. or each other. Just walk.
  • Be generous with friends. Your true friends will be generous in return.
The End. Stop Staring.
  • Endeavor to wake up at least a few moments before the woman you love, everyday. Look at her face and realize how lucky you are.
And with all of these things, trust that she will do the same. Give selflessly, and if she reciprocates, you'll get it all back in the greatest currency known to man. 


(You thought I was going to say Rupees, didn't you?)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

In Bed With the Enemy

Enemy is a word that, in our society, is thrown around more than it ought to be. Blame it on terrorism, communism, or uber-violent movies featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme. Whatever the reason, it seems that we as Americans over dramatize the quibbles we experience, drawing lines in the sand and labeling people as "frenemies".

Exhibit A: The Hellspawn
That being said, some enemies are justifiably titled as such. Beings that create terror and pain. Persons who torture and maim. Cruel masters of chaos. Evil such as the Hellspawn you see here.

This foul demon has been against me since day one. His name is Hobbes.

Don't let the name fool you. He is not adventurous or philosophical like the Hobbes of Bill Watterson's universe.

This felonious feline made it clear early in our relationship that there would be no love lost between the two of us.

My allergies reciprocated. It was mutual loathing that has remained constant for over seven years. I knew his game, he knew mine. We steered clear of each other as best we could, and cursed each other under our respective breathes as we passed in the halls of the Shortridge estate.

But last week we came home from a few days away from the house, and this little animal had changed his M.O.

He was nice.

Never Trust a Man With Two First Names

We walked in the door, and the little orange gato was immediately rubbing up against my leg. He cooed affectionately as his back arched in exfoliatory bliss. I sluffed off the cat and continued up the stairs. The rest of the day was without note, and I went to bed early in an attempt to fight the fatigue that had been beating me down all weekend.

Exhibit B: Not The Hobbes Your Thinking of
I awoke as the sky was just beginning to lighten through my window. In a half cognizant state, I felt a weight at the foot of the bed. I sat up to see a yellow blob through bleary eyes. The form drew closer, and clarified into the Hobbes I'd learned to loathe. But I was too tired to care about his presence. As I dozed, the cat kneaded my stomach and curled up to snooze upon my chest. Groggily, I warned the feline,

"My biological response to your existence is to throw you across the room. I hope you realize this."

But his purring got the better of me, and I allowed him to sleep on me.

When I awoke, the cat was gone. In its place, my allergies had placed seven pounds of mucous in my airways. I labored to remove the muck in every way I knew how, but in the end, resigned myself to a day of phlegm-filled fun.

Later that day, I was lounging on the couch, removing more congestion from my lungs as I watched nothing-in-particular on the television. I dozed to the sound of some rerun not worth remembering, when again, a cat appeared on my stomach. This time, Hobbes insisted on laying on my upper chest, rubbing his face affectionately against my chin. At first, I resisted, but as before, the cuteness won me over and I allowed him to purr his way onto my chest.

After an hour or so of this lovey-dovey routine, I realized that I was likely dying from respiratory failure. My throat was closing with defensive boogers, vainly attempting to stop the siege of cat hair from entering my lungs. My eyes were watering so bad that they could put out a Texan brush fire, and every fifteen to thirty seconds, my nose would expel a viscous plume of mucous that paid reverent homage to Slimer from Ghost Busters.

It turns out that Hobbes was actually trying to destroy me. Like a double-agent, he warmed up to me, got my guard down, and then went in for the kill. And it worked like a charm. I fell for it, hook, line, and sinker.

Keep Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Closer

The lesson learned from this feline fray is this:

Exhibit C: Pay No Attention to the Cat on the Refrigerator
If your enemy extends a hand in friendship,  do not recoil. Give peace a chance. Be open to communication and be willing to compromise. If the United States Government did more of that, maybe Congress would actually accomplish something other than making my head hurt. Then again, one side would probably be allergic to the other, and almost suffocate on the political dander.

OK, so the comparison kind of fell apart there at the end.

Just remember: Even as you should not back away from peace, You should also be hesitant to rush headlong into bed with your adversary.

They may be trying to give you a parasite. I'm just saying.