Friday, November 23, 2012

Must Be Black Friday, The Crazies Are Loose

My new thing as of last year's holiday season is to be out with the loonies as stores open for Black Friday.  Last year was my first time ever shopping in the wee hours of the night, and while I wasn't in the market for a big ticket item like a TV or laptop, I actually enjoyed it.  I got quite a few gifts crossed off my shopping list that first night, so it was worth the experience.

This year was my second go-round, and I had mapped out several stores to check out for their early specials.  I spent about three hours shopping before needing to crash, so I took my purchases home and collapsed on my bed.  I woke up a few hours later and headed back out after recharging to get a few more things.

I know a lot of people think I'm crazy for shopping with the rest of the crazies to save a few bucks, but I have consistently had fun with Christmas shopping every year.  What's more important to me than anything else is seeing the look on people's faces as they open the gifts I had gotten them, and seeing their reactions.  I don't care so much about what presents I get from other people as how happy they are with what I got them.  The best example of this was last year when I got my mom tickets to see Jersey Boys in DC.  She shrieked once she read the ticket receipt, much like a 6 year old kid opening the big present he or she was hoping to get for Christmas.  Job well done.

Once I was done with my shopping today, my girlfriend and I were talking about every place I went since last night, and she showed me this video:

And once again, my hopes for mankind have been stabbed right through the chest.

Year in and year out, you can bank on CNN and other news networks showing the madness from stores around the country as they open for their Black Friday specials.  This video is a perfect example of what they show every year, and I'm stunned every time.  After I had watched this video, I went to check Wal-Mart's Black Friday ad to see what cell phone these people were rioting over.  I saw a couple in their ad, one of which was a prepaid cell phone.

My girlfriend had a really interesting thought when she showed me this video: all these riots and chaotic waves of people on Black Friday are always at Wal-Mart.  I'm not sure what, if anything, that means, but I can't remember the last time I heard of any rioting on Black Friday at a Best Buy, or Target, or Macy's.  It's no wonder why we have websites like People of Wal-Mart out there.  Somehow there's this stereotype of Wal-Mart having the lowest common denominator of customers, and videos like the one above drive the stigma even further home.  

I'm not even sure how this stereotype came to be at first; it's like a chicken and the egg argument.  I've never been that much a fan of Wal-Mart to begin with, and videos like the one above do nothing to encourage me to change my mind.  It's almost enough to make me want to stick with shopping online for Christmas (which I have done in the past), but I get a bit o a thrill by doing my Christmas shopping old school-style.  

At least you'll never see me in one of these riot videos.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Other Side of the Table

My girlfriend's daughter turned 6 earlier this week.  Her birthday party is tomorrow night, so last night I went out to buy a birthday present for her.  I've been out several times with my girlfriend to shop for both her kids, so I had an idea of stuff her daughter would like.

When I first met her daughter early on in our relationship, I had made dinner for everyone to warm them up to me.  After we had finished dinner, her daughter wanted to show her My Little Pony toys to me while my girlfriend washed the dishes in the kitchen.  She was in clear earshot and could also see us at the dinner table playing together.  I figured I'd have a little fun with her daughter by bragging about my extensive My Little Pony collection of my own that I supposedly had since childhood.  When she asked me just how many ponies I had, my answer was, "Dozens!"

You should have seen how big her eyes got when I said that.

Meanwhile, my girlfriend fought to keep from falling over laughing in the kitchen while overhearing my conversation with her daughter.  I had a bunch of questions thrown my way, like what colors of ponies I had, what their names were, and where I kept them.  I BS'd my way through every answer, and she believed every word.

Later that evening after the kids had gone to bed, my girlfriend warned me I had just dug my own grave.  She said her daughter remembers EVERYTHING, so she was bound to ask me more questions in the future about my fake collection, and even want to see them eventually.  I guess there's something hereditary in the women in my girlfriend's family, because she, her mom, and her daughter's memories are all super sharp.

So that brings me back to last night in shopping for a birthday present.  I looked around all the toys for girls and saw all sorts of dolls and playsets in the toy section, and eventually picked out a My Little Pony for her.  I wasn't sure if she already had it, so I got a gift receipt along with the toy to cover myself.

What blew my mind was the kinds of toys kids love these days.  One of the other toy lines my girlfriend's daughter loves is something called Monster High, which frankly creeps me out (Picture high school-age dolls, only they're zombies and other kinds of monsters).  I talked to both my girlfriend and one of her best friends who also has a daughter, and none of us understand their appeal.  I even described them to one of my female friends who doesn't have any kids at all, and she also thought the idea of them was weird.  Who sat down and came up with such an idea in the first place?

Anyway, after I paid for the gift and headed back to my car, I started thinking back to my childhood days and the toys I always bugged my parents about that I wanted.  I could only imagine the look on my mom's face when she went shopping for either my birthday or Christmas with my wish list in hand of the Transformers or G.I. Joe toys I had asked for.  I'm sure she saw the names and thought, "Decepti-whats?  And what on earth is a Metroplex?  Who's Destro and why does he have a name like that?"

I have to admit, I have a new-found respect for my mom when she had to shop for toys for me now that I'm doing the same for my girlfriend's kids.  With Christmas coming up quickly - what the hell happened to 2012 anyway??? - I expect I'll be roaming the toy sections of Wal Mart, Target, and certainly Toys R Us very frequently over the next few weeks.  I'm sure my mom will enjoy my new perspective in toy shopping now, and I'd even suggest she's entitled to a "Now you know what I went through" line or two.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Kneejerk Reactions

Disclaimer: Most of what I'm about to say is in response to everything that happened during the elections yesterday.  My words may sound like the rantings of a right-wing lunatic, but I'm going to do my best to be semi-neutral.  I'm also going to try focusing on the local Maryland elections because there was a particular voter question that I vehemently opposed, and I really want to talk about that at length.

First, let's talk about Obama being re-elected.  I've made no secret how I feel about him and his policies, and I was really hoping that Romney would win at least some of the swing states in the election to win the presidency.  He had successfully rebuilt the state economy in Massachusetts while governor, and I really believed he could have worked on fixing the economy and putting the 23,000,000 unemployed people across the country back to work.  I don't understand why voters gave Obama a pat on the back for creating jobs when unemployment levels are still right around what they were when he first took office.  The jobs he created only replaced those that were eliminated early in his term as President.

One other thing caught my interest in the presidential election: the popular vote.  Democrat friends of mine were all over Facebook last night and into today bragging about how Obama will keep our country moving forward and Republicans can suck it, blah blah blah.  (I'll get more into the venomous anti-Republican stuff in a moment, but stick with me here)  Obama is estimated to win the popular vote by a whopping 2.6 million votes.  How is such a plurality something to be that excited over?  Isn't that a mandate that Obama needs to consider in his second term in office?  I think it's fairly safe to say that unless something catastrophic happens between now and 2016, every presidential election for the foreseeable future will be extremely close.  The nation is more and more divided over politics and politicians, leaving a growing number of voters to be more cynical and jaded as we move forward.  That's not what I would call progress.

Moreover, there's this anti-Republican backlash all over Facebook and Twitter which I don't get.  One of my friends on Facebook is a guy I went to high school with.  From our days in school, I recall him leaning conservative on his views and opinions, but now he's a far-left voter.  What changed his mind isn't really the issue, but late last night he posted on Facebook going off on Republicans in a profanity-laden post.  Since when were Republicans viewed as the enemies of modern society?  What is it about our views and ideas that make the other side of the table hate us so much?  I'm asking a genuine question here, and if someone can provide me an answer I'd really like to hear it.

I think Democrats are wrong in a variety of ways, but I'm not so arrogant as to say that I'm right and those who disagree with me are idiots and hate-mongers.  Democrats seem to pride themselves in being open-minded, so I find it pretty ironic that they can be so close-minded to perspectives from the other end of the political spectrum.  At what point did we go from wanting to work together in a bipartisan fashion to being forced to ride the wave of progressives?

I've spent much more time talking about the presidential election than I had planned, so I'm going to move on to what I really wanted to talk about: Question 4 on the Maryland voter ballot.  The Maryland ballot had two big questions that large amounts of TV time were bought up arguing both for and against, those being question 6 (allowing gay marriage in the state) and question 7 (allowing the funding to build a casino in Maryland).  I read up on all the questions on the state ballot last week, so I knew what I'd be going into yesterday, and when I got to question 4 I had to reread it to make sure I understood what I had just read.

From the Maryland State Board of Electors: "Establishes that individuals, including undocumented immigrants, are eligible to pay in-state tuition rates at community colleges in Maryland, provided the student meets certain conditions relating to attendance and graduation from a Maryland high school, filing of income taxes, intent to apply for permanent residency, and registration with the selective service system (if required); makes such students eligible to pay in-state tuition rates at a four-year public college or university if the student has first completed 60 credit hours or graduated from a community college in Maryland; provides that students qualifying for in-state tuition rates by this method will not be counted as in-state students for purposes of counting undergraduate enrollment; and extends the time in which honorably discharged veterans may qualify for in-state tuition rates."

The key phrase in that paragraph is "including undocumented immigrants," which obviously means illegal immigrants.  According to voter results, Marylanders voted at almost a 2:1 margin in favor of this question.  I am appalled and utterly disappointed.  Why in the world should an ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT be entitled to even attend a university, much less pay in-state tuition for it?  I'm honestly not even sure what angers me more about this issue, that Maryland voters voted in favor of it, or that it was even proposed in the first place.  Did the state board of education sit down and figure that if illegal immigrants were going to live in the state, they might as well find a way to make money off them?

I also found it amusing that such students would be entitled to in-state tuition if their parents filed income taxes.  Again, we're talking about immigrants living here illegally.  What are the odds that such individuals file taxes at all?  If they did file taxes, wouldn't that make tracking them down and arresting them for living here illegally much easier?  

I got into a brief discussion over question 4 on Facebook with a friend of mine who was happy over Obama being re-elected as well as all the Maryland voter questions passing (incidentally, that was the first sign I found that indicated question 4 had passed).  She clearly had voted in favor of the question, but at least she was able to defend her opinion on it.  One of my closest buddies had also commented on there, saying he had voted in favor of it too because he said he would prefer them being educated and working, versus joining gangs.

Putting the rather laissez-faire attitude of his response aside for a moment, there's a crucial fact that voting in favor of question 4 that's being side-stepped: it does nothing to resolve the problem of illegal immigration; it only encourages it.  I'm appalled that the  board of electors and voters across the state don't seem to care anymore about illegal immigration in Maryland.  They're at the point of saying, "Hey, we're never going to be rid of illegals, so we might as well make money off them."  I don't think I'm being xenophobic or racist in being concerned over this issue, and I'd be even more concerned if more states follow Maryland's suit in future elections.

If one thing is absolutely true after reading about the outcomes of yesterday's elections, it's that the Republicans have a lot to work on in the next 4 years if they hope to regain the presidency.  Mitt Romney was the most electable candidate they could have found this year, but he still didn't win.  I'm not sure what kind of rabbit they can pull out of their hat in the next 4 years, but if they can't appeal to minorities or women, they will be on the outside looking in for a long time.