Taxation without Realization

If you've read my blog in the past, then I am sure you're aware that I have no problems speaking my mind about any number of disparate subjects. Although, in the interests of full transparency, I have shown far more restraint than most people would assume. Nevertheless, I am occasionally obliged to say something when I think that a particular issue warrants my unsolicited opinion, which leads me to today's topic of discussion: taxes.

Throughout my life, I have seen hundreds of people display a general ignorance when it comes to paying taxes. To be clear, no one wants to pay taxes, and many people tend to complain incessantly about paying taxes. However, most of their arguments demonstrate a complete failure to understand why taxes are a necessary evil. With that in mind, when I saw the following image turn up in my news feed on social media, I couldn't help but think, "What a stupid thing to say."

Why Am I Paying Taxes

Wage taxes - both state and federal - are collected to pay for police services, fire departments, road construction and repairs, traffic lights, national and state parks, public health, military defense, and thousands of other necessary services that keep our society safe and protected. However, I freely admit that there are thousands of useless projects and salaries for useless public servants what we shouldn't be paying for, but I'll come back to that in a minute.

Nevertheless, the taxes to pay for all these public services and infrastructure costs are withheld from every paycheck in order to avoid forcing taxpayers to pay a lump sum in taxes at the end of every year. With that in mind, think of taxation on wages as a type of payment plan. However, if a taxpayer hasn't set up their withholding correctly, then they might wind up paying additional taxes during tax season to make up the difference between what they should have paid and what was withheld, or taxpayers might receive a refund if they have overpaid in their withholding.

Taxes on purchases are a somewhat ingenious/infamous concept that forces wealthier taxpayers to pay far more than those who earn less, because higher wage earners tend to spend more on unnecessary purchases, which increases the amount of taxes that they pay. Sales tax on property purchases follow suit, though there are additional property taxes that residents are required to pay after they've purchased their property, which are ostensibly used to provide services at the community level (e.g. local police, fire, etc.).

To summarize my feedback thus far: everything that is addressed in that meme illustrates the way that governments work around the globe - there are services that are needed to keep people safe and commerce flowing, and taxes provide for those services. If we briefly set aside the concepts of useless projects and useless public servants for a moment, objecting to the basic concept of taxation is akin to claiming that you can provide your own protection from crime, fire, invasion, disease, etc., while also creating your own means of transportation (e.g. building your own roads). At the end of the day, any notion of doing away with taxes is beyond ludicrous. You might as well wish for anarchy, which leads almost immediately to being conquered by another country that developed its superior military forces through... taxes.

All that being said, there are several things about taxes that I find equally ludicrous.

I have already mentioned thousands of useless projects and salaries for useless public servants what we shouldn't be paying for, and better public transparency from our government would help take care of that. However, better public transparency isn't in the best interests of the useless public servants that are wasting money, so the useless public servants tend to hide their useless expenditures from the public, and our only recourse is to vote those people out of office when they are discovered.

Unfortunately, as the saying goes, "It is difficult to free people from the chains they revere," and as we have seen in states like California, some useless public servants continue to spend themselves past bankruptcy by continuously adding unnecessary services and appointing unnecessary people to govern them, and yet their gullible constituents continue to vote these useless public servants into office year after year. Although as we have seen recently, residents of California have slowly awakened to the fact that their useless public servants have created an untenable "tax and spend" society, and hundreds of thousands of California's former residents have fled the state. However, as these California expats have begun to settle in states that have historically been more fiscally sound, these domestic political refugees are demonstrating their continued ignorance by voting in the same sorts of useless public servants that they were fleeing in their home states, and thereby destroying the rest of the country with the same level of apathetic stupidity that destroyed their previous locales.

Having said all of that, another form of taxation that I find morally reprehensible is taxes on Social Security. Wage earners have been forced to pay a lifetime's worth of income that has already been taxed into the Social Security program, on which they earn a pittance of interest for their involuntary participation; then insult is added to injury when their meager returns are taxed yet again. This is grossly insulting to everyone who is required to participate in Social Security.

The last form of taxation that I think is brainless beyond measure is paying taxes on military wages. Taxpayers are paying the costs for national defense, so the requirement for military personnel to pay taxes to themselves is just plain stupid. I think it would be a great incentive for military recruitment if military wages were tax free. Many enlisted personnel are earning far below the federal poverty line anyway, and I think that removing taxes from their wages would be extremely beneficial to them.

In closing, any general objections to paying taxes are ridiculous, and they typically do little more than to illustrate that the person who is complaining about taxes doesn't understand how to govern anything more than themselves. (Although I have known more than my fair share of people who objected to taxes that were incapable of balancing their checkbooks, but I digress.) Taxes are essential for the common good, and someone who fails to understand that simple concept should take a few basic economics courses.

At the end of the day, as the old saying goes, "Only two things in life are certain: death and taxes."

Unsolicited Thoughts about Tim Henson's New Guitar

I like the band Polyphia, and their piece "G.O.A.T" is nothing short of brilliant. I was completely blown away by that song when I first heard it a couple years ago. (And I loved Rick Beato's break down on that piece, but then I'm a huge fan of Rick Beato anyway.)

One of Polyphia's guitarists, Tim Henson, does some amazing things technically and musically that I've never heard before and never personally considered when playing the guitar. I have mentioned in other musings that I rate musicians on the TOAD scale, where TOAD is Talent, Originality, Affect, and Durability. Watching Henson play guitar, it's abundantly clear that he has Talent and Originality oozing out of every pore. While his Affect on other players remains to be seen, I think that Durability within the industry is quite likely.

With that in mind, I was interested when some of the musicians that I know posted a video from Henson that was titled "Playing my new guitar." Several people made comparisons to Jimi Hendrix, which I assumed was due to Henson's arsenal of innovative techniques. Without forcing you to suffer through more of my descriptive rhetoric, here is the video in question.

Regardless of my feelings for Polyphia, my final opinion for Henson's "playing my new guitar" video was... yawn. Don't get me wrong - for the first 30 seconds or so I was amazed, as I was the first time that I heard Polyphia. But let's be honest - after the first minute of Henson's "new guitar" video, you've heard pretty much everything you're going to hear. The rest of it is just the same thing, over and over, ad nauseum.

Yes - Henson's technique is amazing. Yes - his chops are off the map. And yes - I'm a guitar player who can't play what he plays, but to be clear - my comments are not coming from a position of "I can't do that so I'm just lashing out." On the contrary, Henson's "new guitar" video is almost nine minutes of unstructured, semi-repetitive guitar ramblings that wears itself out long before the conclusion of video.

In a way, Henson's video reminded me of why I dislike a lot of Yngwie Malmsteen's playing. Oh sure, Yngwie is one of the fastest guitar players alive, but that's precisely his problem - eventually an overabundance of self-aggrandizing displays of technical wizardry begin to devolve into a murky sludgefest of technically proficient ear slime. In that sense, I don't like some people's comparisons of Henson to Hendrix, because Hendrix wasn't just an innovator - he was a songwriter. (Though Hendrix often descended into his own pools of ear slime, too.) Henson's video, on the other hand, falls far short of "songwriting"; after the first few minutes, it starts to sound like... noise.

While I realize that art is always in the eye (or ear) of the beholder, in my opinion there's more to music than nine chaotic minutes of slapping the crap out of a guitar. To be clear, I listen to a lot of music that's all over the place from a structure point of view, but there should be SOME sense of where a piece going. And if there's no direction, then a piece has to evolve. I've seen Eddie Van Halen perform a 12-minute solo, and it was entertaining for every minute of it - because Eddie moved on from idea to idea.

Think of Jazz for a moment. I've heard some phenomenal Jazz soloists take off on tangents of technical brilliance that filled long passages of time, but those soloists are usually backed by something underneath that gives it meaning - and quite often one soloist passes off to another, but the underlying essence is there, however veiled it may be. As an example, consider Al Di Meola's "Mediterranean Sundance"; there are technical chops to spare, plenty of guitars getting slapped around, and no shortage of chaos when necessary. However, there's far more to see and hear than what you'll see in Henson's video.

Taking this discussion closer to Henson's "new guitar" video, I've gone to see some brilliant fingerstyle guitar players, and Leo Kottke initially comes to mind. I often think there's something wrong with the way Kottke thinks, because his pieces are underscored by a tumultuous maelstrom of mismatched time and key signatures with brilliant displays of technical prowess soaring over top. For that matter, I would find Antoine Dufour's "Déjà Vu" from several years ago or Andy McKee's "Drifting" from 15 years ago far more entertaining than Henson's video; both of those guitarists were using a lot of the same skills and ideas that Henson was manifesting, without managing to get on my nerves or bore me to tears.

So my apologies to my friends who posted the link to Henson's "playing my new guitar video" - I certainly didn't mean to rain on their parade. But Henson's video reminds me of what a music critic once said was wrong with Emerson, Lake and Palmer when they entered the studio: they desperately needed someone else to tell them when enough was enough. If Henson trimmed his "my new guitar" down to 60 seconds and dropped an intro & outro on it, I'd have been far more impressed.


PS - My sincere apologies to Tim Henson. If you ever read this, I still think you're great - even though I didn't like your "new guitar" video.

More 511th History: Ghosts of Borders Past

One of the places that the 511th MI CO liked to use for operations was affectionately known as the "Schlossberg," which is German for "Castle Mountain." This location earned its moniker because the decaying ruins of Brandenfels Castle were perched on the end of a ridge facing East Germany, and it earned its popularity with our squad because it was near the border and in a great location for finding Bad Guys. We approached this site from the west, where we'd be hidden from sight to the east, and we drove down a long, muddy road then up the hill to where the castle was located.

Once on site, we'd pitch camp west of the castle, thereby using it to mask our position from the east. The TRQ-32 was parked facing west, with its rear door facing the castle; this arrangement allowed us to throw the vehicle in gear if an emergency arose (like being attacked or overrun). Once the TRQ was situated and leveled, we'd set up the antennae, then we'd wrap bales of concertina wire in a horseshoe around the rear of the TRQ-32, leaving us with security to the rear and a hasty exit to the front.

Once we were set up for operations, we'd go through the rest of the necessary tasks, like setting up the 8‑man tent for sleeping, arranging our other vehicles for duties like radio watch, and setting up camouflage netting when necessary to obscure our equipment. I used a lot of knots that I had learned in the Boy Scouts to secure the camouflage netting, which always seemed to amuse or amaze my colleagues. (One of my favorite knots was the Clove Hitch, which was great for suspending netting or tarps between trees.)

We'd run the TRQ-32 by day, and its loud generators could no doubt be heard in the villages below the Schlossberg. When we shut down the TRQ-32 for the night, the guy on radio watch would take over double duty using the TRQ-30 manpack radio to listen for Bad Guys in the dark. (I occasionally found Bad Guys by night, yet I still wonder if my fellow squad members didn't bother.) Between light discipline, the lack of generator noise, and the abundant foliage, our squad would essentially vanish at night.

The biggest drawback to the Schlossberg site was a single road for entrance and exit; in theory we could have driven down the side of the hill if our situation had taken a turn for the worse, but I'm glad that we never needed to attempt such a feat. Nevertheless, we manned a guard post near the road a couple hundred meters from camp, and we ran commo wire for field telephones that allowed the guy on guard duty to talk to the guy on radio watch. We found a natural depression in the ground that we could use as a shallow foxhole for guard duty, which offered a modicum of protection from the wind, and we piled several dead logs around the rim to create additional shelter. However, there was no overhead cover, so when it rained - you were wet (though you hopefully had a poncho or rainsuit with you).

band-of-geeks

In the above photo, my EW squad is posing at the Schlossberg with Brandenfels Castle behind us. What this photo doesn't show is the amount of tree cover that masked the site from the air, which also made the site darker than the inside of a coffin when the sun retreated beyond the distant horizon. We diligently practiced light discipline within our camp, which - when combined with the absence of natural moonlight or stars - created an environment that was mind‑numbingly black by night.

I have been asked occasionally why we didn't use Night Vision Goggles (NVGs) when we were deployed to the Schlossberg, which warrants a brief explanation. NVGs are wonderful tools, but in real life they don't work like they do in action movies. Hollywood seems to think that NVGs allow people to magically see in the dark, but that's not how they function. NVGs are light amplifiers, which means that there must be some source of light for them to amplify. In many situations, the sparse light provided by stars might be sufficient for NVGs to work their magic. But due to the dense tree cover overhead, there was nothing for them to work with at the Schlossberg, so our NVGs were worthless.

This lack of light made guard duty after sunset at the Schlossberg an especially creepy experience. As I mentioned earlier, our guard post was a couple hundred meters from the rest of our camp. Despite our best efforts to create shelter from the elements, guard duty was frequently a bitterly cold assignment, and shifts were usually doled out in two‑hour blocks. Each man was responsible for getting himself up, getting dressed, and finding his way through the dark to the guard post to relieve the previous guard. If you showed up a few minutes early for your shift, you were a hero; if you showed up a few minutes late, you were a jackass who was worthy of universal contempt.

On a particularly miserable night, I was tired of sitting in the foxhole and freezing. I grabbed my M-16 and leaned against a tree to the side of the road, where I was able to stand opposite the wind, which made me a little warmer - perhaps not physically, but certainly emotionally. In any event, as the time neared for my relief to arrive, I heard footsteps walking quietly down the road toward my position. Of course, it was pitch dark, so the next soldier on the rotation, SPC Nadalalicea, had no idea where I was.

At one time or other, we'd all been in that situation, and the only way you could find the guard post was to ask the darkness for assistance. To that end, I heard SPC Nadalalicea starting to whisper my nickname, "Fred...?," as he approached. As he drew near, I continued to stand next to my tree and remained silent. SPC Nadalalicea came to a stop within a foot of me, but he still had no idea where I was. Once again, he quietly whispered into the darkness, "Fred...?" I didn't bother to whisper when I made my response - at full conversational volume I said, "I'm right here, Nada." He screamed, hurled a few obscenities, then told me that I'd just scared the poop out of him. I think if he could have seen me, he probably would have hit me.

There are interesting things about being on guard duty when you can't see anything. As one might imagine, your mind plays tricks on you. The tiniest sound is amplified into something far greater than it is, and everything is perceived as a threat until you can convince yourself otherwise. This situation leads me to an anecdote that I used to tell my children as a ghost story when they were younger.

As I would sit there in the dark, trying to stay warm, and watching for something I couldn't see, I would hear the faint sound of footsteps that sounded like they were approaching. At first, I would do nothing but listen, just to make sure that I wasn't imagining it - and I wasn't. The footsteps wouldn't go away, and they would quietly grow louder as they approached. It wasn't time for my relief to arrive, so my only recourse was to ask the darkness for assistance. I'd quietly whisper, "Hello...?," but there was no answer. However, the footsteps would stop.

For a several minutes I'd continue to sit there, straining my ears to hear... anything. I undoubtedly held my breath as I waited for something to happen, but unrelenting silence was my only reward. Eventually I would begin to relax, thinking perhaps that I had imagined the entire affair. However, with unwavering regularity, as soon as I thought the experience was behind me, I would begin to hear footsteps approaching, and the entire scenario of casting questions into the void with no response would repeat itself. Despite those ghostly footsteps, no one ever arrived at the guard post.

If my experiences on guard duty had been mine alone, you'd have sufficient grounds to think me a little unbalanced or easily agitated. However, I wasn't the only one to hear those inexplicable footsteps, and it made everyone on guard duty more than a little uncomfortable. During my tenure in Fulda, I never found a sufficient explanation for what happened to everyone who sat alone in the dark at that lonely guard post, but some years later I came up with a somewhat plausible theory. My hypothesis, however, is another story for another day.

Facing the Horrors of War

Like many of my colleagues from the 511th MI Company, I visited the Dachau Concentration Camp during my tenure in Fulda, and it was a sobering experience. It is difficult for any rational individual to come to terms with the sheer magnitude of horrors that took place in that single camp. On that note, I just read the following article from HistoryNet, which describes the retributory actions of US soldiers during the liberation of Dachau:

I have to admit, I find it difficult to find fault with soldiers who retaliated against the guards that were still defending the camp with the US Army arrived. It is easy during a time of relative peace to passively judge the actions of soldiers who exacted vengeance upon unarmed guards several decades ago, and it is likewise easy during peacetime to believe that any of us might have behaved differently in a similar circumstance. Nevertheless, none of us trod the path those soldiers walked, and I am willing to bet that coming face to face with Dachau's camp guards - whom we now perceive as inhuman monsters - could alter anyone's sense of morality.

 


ADDITIONAL REFERENCES:

More information about the Dachau Concentration Camp and the reprisals that were taken by US soldiers is available in the following WikiPedia articles:

Excuse My French

As a military brat, the scenario depicted in the following image could easily have played itself out in our household when I was growing up. Winking smile

Excuse my French

Although I must admit, in the years since my exit from the Army (where I had been serving as a military linguist), I have found the ability to utter colorful vocabulary in foreign languages extremely beneficial during times of crisis... though I am careful to choose a language that is not likely to be understood by the people around me.

Open-mouthed smile

Al Gore and the Invention of the Internet

There is an age-old story circling within political spheres that former Vice President Al Gore once claimed to have "invented the Internet." And in contrast to that story, there is a counter-rumor floating around that Gore never said any such thing. To help put this issue to rest, Tech Insider created a video a few years ago that was designed to promote the idea that Gore has simply been "misquoted" over the years.

In deference to Tech Insider's claims, there is a vast difference between being "misquoted" and "misspeaking." Al Gore has NOT been "famously misquoted" with regard to his comments to CNN in that video, in which he clearly says, "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet." That is a direct quote, not a misquote. Of course, history tells us that Gore was misspeaking when he said that, which could be attributed to hubris, deceit, or ignorance.

Putting things in perspective, Al Gore uttered his now-infamous boast during his failed presidential run against George W. Bush. Gore's campaign took place at the height of the Internet dot-com boom, when billions of dollars were pouring into the economy as a result of the Internet explosion. With that in mind, it is not outside the realms of probability that Gore was attempting to ingratiate himself to voters by claiming that he was the one responsible for all of that new-found wealth. Which, if you think about it, is a pretty good strategy, as long as you can count on what Jonathan Gruber once called "The Stupidity Of The American Voter." In other words, you can say anything you want - like claiming to invent the Internet - as long as your voters are too stupid to know better.

Nevertheless, Tech Insider's and other people's insistence that Al Gore has been "misquoted" are ludicrous. Regardless of his reasons for doing so, it is a matter of undisputed fact that Al Gore claimed to have invented the Internet. And it is also a matter of undisputed fact that Al Gore did not invent the Internet.


If you'd like a brief introduction as to what really happened when the Internet was created, the following three-minute video should tell you everything you need to know.

By the way, if you've read some of my old blogs, you'll see that I wrote the Request for Comments (RFC) document number 7151, which defines a method of multi-hosting for the Internet's File Transfer Protocol (FTP). Since that document has been published as part of the Standards Track for the Internet, I can legitimately say that - unlike Al Gore - I actually took the initiative and helped reinvent the Internet. Oh sure, it's only a small, obscure part of the Internet, but still... I can honestly say that I did something that Al Gore can only claim to have done.

The Chronic Epidemic of Fake Service Dogs

My brother recently posted the following article: Important Rant About Why Fake Service Dogs Are So Problematic, which contained the following anecdote:

You're sitting at a café with your friend when suddenly a woman walks in with a toy poodle in her purse. The manager at the counter informs her "I'm sorry, but we do not allow dogs." She replies with a heavy sigh and a "She's a service dog. She can come with me." Not knowing much about service dog law, and worrying about getting sued for asking further questions, he sits this woman down at a booth. There, she promptly unzips her purse and places the dog on the booth seat next to her. When the woman's dog comes out, the little dog begs and she feeds her bits off her plate. This dog is not public access trained, and proceeds to bark at those who walk by. This dog is a nuisance and causes many in the restaurant to complain. The manager cannot do anything but information the unhappy customers that this is a service dog, so he can't ask her to leave. In the end, it's the customers who end up leaving.

Now I walk in with my highly trained service dog pressed against my leg in a perfect heel position, and I'm quickly bombarded by the manager telling me "No dogs! No dogs! We ALL know what happened last time." Confused, I tell him "This is my medical alert and medical response service dog. Her right to accompany me is protected under federal law." With a sigh, he seats me at a table far away from others where my dog promptly tucks under my feet, out of sight. When my food arrives my dog is still tucked tightly under the table because she knows she's not supposed to eat when she's on duty. She stays there ignoring those who walk past for the remainder of my meal. When we leave, a woman by the door exclaims "Woah, I didn't know there was a dog here!"

See the difference?

There's more to the story at the link I shared, but here's the gist of the article: the problem of "fake service animals" has become a chronic epidemic in our country. Far too many people are pretending their dogs are "service animals" when they're not, and they are causing a plethora of problems for actual service dogs.

Look, I get it; dogs are great. I grew up with dogs. I love my dogs. Other people love their dogs. Heck, we all love our dogs. However, some places are acceptable for dogs, and some places are not acceptable. Not every public setting is appropriate for them.

That being said, as evidenced by the anecdote I shared, the way that some people have been abusing "service animals" is eroding public trust, and that's dangerous to society. I have heard people complain that they "need" to have their dog with them, which they don't. Their argument is typically that their dog is really their "emotional support animal." But you know what, EVERY dog is an "emotional support animal." That's pretty much the definition of any pet.

I had a coworker at work who was blind, and he had a real service animal. There is a world of difference between his dog and the dogs that I see running around stores and behaving badly while wearing a "service animal" vest that their immature owner purchased at a local pet store.

Let me explain what a dog has to go through to become a service animal: my Goldendoodle is a certified service dog, who has been trained to visit patients in hospitals. To become certified, she went through two years of training where she learned how to behave in dozens of disparate public situations, followed by several batteries of testing in front of a panel of judges, where something as minor as a single growl would have disqualified her permanently. There are no second chances during the testing; a real service animal must behave perfectly in public from the outset. That is why when someone brings their house pet out in public and lies to everyone by claiming that their dog is a "service animal," and their pet cannot behave in a way that is commendable, they permanently hurt public opinion of service animals.

To put it bluntly for those who are too immature to understand the basics of public behavior: if you do not have an actual medical need for a service animal, and yet you are too emotionally unstable to go to the store for a few minutes without leaving Fido or Fifi at home - then you need therapy. In the meantime, however, you need to leave your dog at home!

What I’m Thankful For This Thanksgiving

Unless you've been deployed to a forgotten, backwoods, nowhere of a hell hole and one of these packages is your Thanksgiving meal, you may not realize how truly thankful you should be for the things that you have.

MRE-Turkey-Loaf-and-Diced-Turkey-With-Gravy

On this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for all my comrades in arms (and their families) who are deployed far from home and their loved ones, and keeping the peace so that others might be able to spend time with their families.

Aerial View of Shipwreck Beach on Lanai

I recently brought a drone with me to the island of Lanai, and I used some of the footage to create the following aerial 360-degree image of YOGN 42 off the shore of Shipwreck Beach. The black discoloration at the top of the image was caused by the drone's propellers, which were fighting hard to keep the drone in position amidst winds that were far too strong for it. As a result, I didn't get more than a few minutes of video before I decided to call it quits, otherwise I would have risked losing the drone.

YOGN 42 Shipwreck Beach

If you click the image, you'll see the full-sized, 360-degree image. The shipwreck is pretty self-explanatory, but it's great that you can see three of the Hawaiian islands in image; the island of Molokai is behind the wreck of the YOGN 42, the island of Maui is off to its right, and I was standing on the beach of Lanai with the drone hovering directly overhead.

The drone has GPS for keeping the drone out of areas where I shouldn't be flying, and to return home if the drone loses signal. To guide the drone, I had it linked to my phone, so I was watching the video on my phone's screen while holding the remote. In that sense, it was almost like playing a video game using a controller.

Unfortunately, I have no video from above the wreck. I was close enough to overfly the ship, but a warning popped up on my phone's screen telling me that it was far too windy (which it was) and I should land immediately. Then a second warning popped up saying that the extreme winds meant that GPS might not be reliable, so the drone might not be able to return home if I lost signal. Having seen both of those warnings in rapid succession, I turned the drone around and headed it back to where I was on the beach, lest I lose the drone and it joined the dozens of other wrecks along Shipwreck Beach.

My Halloween Zombie Story

Here's a story from my distant past for your Halloween amusement...

Back in our High School days, my good friend James and I loved horror movies – the scarier or the gorier the better. On weekends, we loved to host horror movie marathons at James' house in the Tucson foothills, where it was nice and dark after hours, and his parents were cool enough to let the two of us invite over a bunch of friends to participate in our fright fests.

On one such occasion, several people were on their way as dusk was beginning to fall, and one of the people we were expecting was Carrie, who was a friend of ours from Drama class. Since zombies had been the theme of choice on multiple occasions, we hatched an evil plan to play a prank in that genre on Carrie. James and I had a few gallons of stage blood lying around, as one does, and I suggested that we rip up the front of one of James' shirts so it looked like it was torn open by a zombie, then cover his chest with cold cut meats that matched his skin color as best as possible, then drown everything in stage blood while James was lying in the middle of the street. We quickly set everything up in front of his house, then we waited for Carrie's car to turn down his street.

After a few minutes a car was headed our way, and I sat in the street next to James as I began to slowly rip pieces of flesh off James' chest and eat them, with copious amounts of stage blood dripping down my face. The car came to a halt next to our macabre spectacle, and when the occupants rolled down the window, I was surprised to discover that it wasn’t Carrie – it was the parents who lived next door to James. They looked at me with a genuine amount of fear and asked, "Is he okay?," to which I replied with the first thing that popped into my head, "He's delicious."

 Open-mouthed smile

James' neighbors quickly drove away, and by some miracle they didn't call the cops on us. Carrie arrived a few minutes later, and we repeated the whole scene for her benefit, with the expected results. I believe her words – or at least her thoughts – were along the lines of: "The two of you are not right in the head." (It's quite possible that she still holds that opinion of us.)

 

PS - I should mention that James' neighbors never asked him to babysit again.