Episode 04 – Do Not Download Until OK To Discuss Gun Violence

In this episode we look at the two common arguments in the all-too-familiar cycle of having a gun violence debate: gun regulation, and mental health treatment.

Links to articles/publications referenced in this episode:

Music included in this podcast with permission or appropriate use of CC license: RSPN by Blank & Kytt, Balkan Beats by The Freak Fandango Orchestra.

Ways to support Off Baseline – subscribe, and leave reviews on iTunes/Google!

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Episode 03 – SOTU Wahoo and YouTube ft Becca Godsey

In this episode we discuss Trump’s State of the Union and what it means for immigrants and opiate treatment, the fleeting pseudo-stardom of YouTube, what symbolic interaction theory can help us understand about Chief Wahoo, and Becca Godsey joins to talk social media as an extension of our identities.

Music included in this podcast with permission: Balkan Beats by The Freak Fandango Orchestra, Bad Seed by The UK’s.

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Episode 02 – Big Buttons, Bigger Coping Skills ft Jody DeBoer LMSW

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In this episode we discuss the erroneous ballistic missile alert in Hawaii, the deportation of Jorge Garcia and what role does immigration law play in society. LMSW Jody DeBoer joins to discuss the general functions of community mental health centers and their important role in the health of individual communities.

Recommended reading: Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government’s Secret Plan to Save Itself–While the Rest of Us Die by Garrett Graff

Music included in this podcast with permission: Balkan Beats by The Freak Fandango Orchestra, Bad Seed by The UK’s.

Episode 01 – MLK, Feedback Loops, and Conflict ft Rev Steven Andrews

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In this episode I introduce the concept of the podcast at length, and perhaps efficiently. Rev Steven Andrews joins to reflect on MLK, social media dialogue, conflict, and communication.

Recommended reading: The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein.

Music included in this podcast with permission: Balkan Beats by The Freak Fandango Orchestra, Bad Seed by The UK’s.

The Off Baseline Podcast

I am launching a podcast called “Off Baseline”, which aims to navigate the news through the macro and micro lenses of sociology, psychology, history, anthropology, communication theory, political science, economics, and other social sciences. Essentially I will seek to process current events through these lenses, through interview of peers and available interviewees, and the trusty ol’ coping skill of humor.

Subscribe to the RSS & use with your favorite podcast app. (Coming soon to iTunes)

SUBSCRIBE to the show on YouTube

FOLLOW the show on Twitter: http://twitter.com/offbaseline

LIKE the show on Facebook: http://facebook.com/apagadobaseline

Music is “Balkan Beats” by The Freak Fandango Orchestra https://freakfandango.bandcamp.com/ used with permission from the artist.

Look for the first show in January 2018. This is not a full time job, so I will be experimenting with manageable show structures and frequency.

Making Sense of “Pro-Life” Politics


Maybe it’s just that the Chem Trails are extra strong here in Kansas City, but the phrase “Pro Life” in its contemporary use has always perplexed me. When someone says that Christians should be Pro Life, they mean to say that Christians should vote for Republican Presidents to appoint judges to overturn Roe V Wade and Republican congressmen to draft legislation to outlaw the clinical practice of abortion, no matter how horrible the rest of their politics are. It doesn’t matter if the rest of the platform increases poverty, racial/gender/economic inequality, war, selfishness, and greed. Ayn Rand is the new Jesus. This version of Jesus touts Objectivism, which asserts “Man—every man—is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others; he must live for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself; he must work for his rational self-interest, with the achievement of his own happiness as the highest moral purpose of his life.” Paul Ryan idolizes new Jesus. He also claims to follow old Jesus who said “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself”. An interesting paradox, to say the least.

Sam Harris likes to do thought experiments. It makes his racist ideas seem less racist on the surface, because he uses big words and a soft voice. In the spirit of Sam Harris, lets imagine a world in full implementation of the aforementioned policies, where the midterms broaden the GOP lead in the house, and, lets say Trump starts golfing every single day instead of his current historic pace, taking short breaks to dump on Muslims and African Americans with Groyper meme retweets, but staying mostly out of the way:

Abortion is punishable by death per the Eye for An Embryo Act. Rural and urban America continue to get poorer and poorer with less access to healthcare (“Patient Choice”), low wages without worker leverage (“Right to Work”), lower class mobility and understanding of historical context, (“School Choice”) and increased overall economic desperation (but a sweet flat tax!) leading to growing rates of violence (made worse by zero gun regulation) in an increasingly impoverished society. There aren’t even enough churches to take in all the kids, or single moms. Society has been re-organized so that women can’t choose abortion and have limited access to birth control, but at the same time divorce is still totally cool, because men gotta go do their thing, ya know? Lead and stuff. Abortions still happen daily, despite the risk of the death penalty. This was supposed to fix it.

But hey lets back up from Current GOP Platform Paradise for a second. I have no problem with people being against abortion. I am. I happen to actually think that most of the population is also against abortion, including most of the “Pro Choice” crowd. This may come as a shock to you, but I don’t think it should. Abortion as it circumstantially exists is a human tragedy. We ought to do everything we can to get abortion rates down as low as possible. God-willing, to end its occurrence entirely. We need results.

But I’m sorry; “Pro Life” is Fake News.

The premise behind the current evangelical Pro Life movement is to say that life is valuable because God created it, right? Life is precious. “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb.” – the Lord said to Jeremiah. *(But that’s when it stops making any sense, because the Lord gave the rest of His message to Jeremiah: “Once you turned about 12 years old, I couldn’t have cared less whether you died from starvation or cruise missiles. Honestly your only task is to have another Christian baby so its life will be valuable for another 12 years. It makes me happy.”)

I take issue with using the words “Pro Life” in one breath to say we have to protect embryos from abortion, and in the next three breaths drafting legislation to make it harder for a single mom working two part time jobs to get food stamps for her post-fetus, cutting access to lifesaving healthcare to millions of post-fetuses who weren’t born wealthy, and launching carpet bombing campaigns on brown post-fetuses caught up in their governments’ crimes, which can usually be defined as not being America. The Pro Life movement seems to make two definitive philosophical claims: human life begins at conception, and ends when it leaves America, has poor parents, becomes a teenager, or isn’t white.

That’s why I happen to believe the movement is largely disingenuous. I don’t think many of its followers are. I don’t think family and friends that fit this definition of Pro Life are being intentionally misleading: I see it as a genuine passion to right a wrong as they see it. I think it is seen that way largely because of cynical political strategists and PR campaigns, not Biblical truths. It is seen that way because Feminism is a threat to maintain a monopoly of power, not Biblical truths. It is seen that way because tax cuts are apparently so important that a child sex predator is needed for that extra vote, not because of Biblical truths. That’s when we hear that probably the most boring-looking centrist Democrat on the planet wants to abort babies up to the 5th year after full-term (conveniently ignoring the work he’s done for Kingdom of God to bring justice to the Klu Klux Klan). Or when we hear fantastical tails of underground baby body part smuggling based on the dubious interpretations of bad actors. It’s meant to scare you into altering your voting behavior, it’s not meant to champion the unborn.

Then we get to the question of whether a legal ban of abortion could actually be effective to decrease abortion rates. We have good reason to believe it is unlikely to stop the “back alley” abortion phenomenon. This is evident in states where access is extremely limited or the process is made legally arduous. We also have reason to believe it is becoming widely more accessible as medicine and technology improve. And this was acknowledged way back in 1869 in a newspaper edited by Susan B Anthony called The Revolution (boy we don’t have publications like that anymore, or I guess publications in general), the writer wrestles with anti-abortion views and the skepticism of banning it,

Much as I deplore the horrible crime of child-murder, earnestly as I desire its suppression, I cannot believe with the writer of the above-mentioned article, that such a law would have the desired effect. It seems to me to be only mowing off the top of the noxious weed, while the root remains.

There are aspects with which I continue to struggle.

First, a tool that became a force for that same wave of societal conflict and change was birth control. Before birth control, only men could have casual sex without the risk of needing to take months off from work, thereby missing out on promotions or even losing their jobs. And. They. Did. Like, alot. Even holy people. Birth control imperfectly but significantly balances this for women. This one hardly poses an ethical dilemma for me, personally. Even regarding ’emergency contraception’. I know there are some radical theories of personal identity attesting that every sperm is sacred. I’m a nice guy, and a therapist, so I don’t call people idiots very often. People who believe that are being idiots. See, I can’t even fully do it. Mike Pence, you’re an idiot. (okay I can do it)

More problematic for me is an inconvenient truth: Access to abortion essentially liberated women from a hegemonic patriarchal order, allowing them the choice of staying at home to raise children, rather than the obligation. The continuity of social norms aren’t shifted by people suddenly waking up and thinking ‘oh yeah, women should have the same rights, jobs, and wages as us men. Here you go.’

A functionalist sociology theory does not seem to get us there. Equilibrium will not suddenly change to include rights it hasn’t considered in 200 years. It requires conflict, and it requires change to that structure. Without the conflict that legalized access to abortion forced, women’s rights in the 20th and 21st centuries looks completely different. This is a source of internal conflict for me, and one with which I’m honestly still ethically wrestling.

I’ve always idealized myself Kantian, and acted like a Utilitarian. I think we all do to an extent. (Even libertarians! Every libertarian I’ve met has driven on roads, and a few even wear seatbelts). I confess that the universal moral value of “Life” is a claim I set to make when I hit “New Post” and I acknowledge the theoretical inconsistency. Did I mention I got a “C” in philosophical ethics in college? That was 2008, and I’d like to think a decade later that I could bring that up to a C+.

I happen to agree that human life is inherently valuable and precious, marked by the image of its Creator. I also happen to agree that we need action in addition to renewal of the heart to protect the sanctity of life. I also like what the term Pro Life appears to suggest at face value.

It’s time “Pro Life” was taken beyond a cardboard public relations campaign. I’m not the first person to have this idea, perhaps obviously, and thankfully. Pro Life has largely stemmed from ideas of “Consistent Life Ethic” or “Seamless Garment” theologies of pacifist Catholics in the 1970’s. There’s also the New Pro Life Movement, which outlines a much different set of values and policies than the current ethos of front-loading value onto the nine months following intercourse. Here’s my new pro life policy platform. Keep in mind, this isn’t an attempt to establish a specific political movement, this is merely a set of policy positions that I consider to be actually “Pro Life”.

God’s creation of and love for people Christ sanctifies and gives us equal meaning, value, and purpose. Every human life is sacred from womb to tomb. Inequality is an anti-Christ. Therefore, I value positions that are truly pro-life.

I value the sanctity of life, therefore I fight systemic, personal, and cultural racism in all forms. This includes continued a historical framework for understanding in the history of slavery, genocide and oppression on American soil, requiring initiatives to counterbalance existing systemic forces of oppression. I support reparations.

I value the sanctity of life, therefore I acknowledge and champion a broader Feminist struggle for women’s rights. To champion this cause is to fight patriarchal hegemony through fighting sex trafficking, rape culture, sexual harassment culture, economic inequality, and access to resources like medical care.

I value the sanctity of life, therefore I wholeheartedly support Medicare for All as the ethical stewardship of a nation that has amassed enough wealth to provide for the medical needs of its many inherently precious lives. This will save a lot of babies, it turns out, because prospective mothers will know that they will have adequate healthcare for themselves and their child.

I value the sanctity of life, therefore I support programs that fight poverty and income inequality at home and abroad. At home, I support New Deal and Great Society safety-net programs of SSI, SSDI, Medicaid, Food Stamps, and public housing. As the challenges of post-industrial globalization and automation evolve, this includes newer programs such as paid family medical leave, expansion of existing social programs, a tax structure that discourages massive wealth accumulation, and ultimately an economic and political system that counterbalances the fallen human nature of selfishness and greed.

I value the sanctity of life, therefore I oppose moves of aggression for American Empire, neo-colonialism, the military industrial complex, genocide, oppressive occupations, and “nation-building”.

I value the sanctity of life, therefore I oppose the death penalty. “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” – Matthew 9:13

I value the sanctity of life, so as a voter and activist as professional and family life allow, I will champion political leaders and movements who align with these policies.


Parkville Mayoral Candidates on Sidewalks, Buses, and More

April 5th Parkville voters will decide whether to re-elect Nan Johnston for 3 more years or to change leadership with Nick Casale. Speaking strictly for the sake of democracy, I’m encouraged to see challengers in elections, even if I believe the incumbent has done well (I do), and in the four years I’ve lived in Parkville, I’ve seen several unopposed elections on my ballot. There are a few alderman elections occurring as well (several unopposed), and the Platte County Citizen has mentioned a few of them in a recent article, as well as a brief summary of the mayoral race. I’m not looking to repeat any previously stated information.

My goal with this blog is to provide information about issues that are rarely discussed in media coverage of local, small town elections: views on pedestrian, biking, and transit infrastructure. Initially, I simply wanted to hear their views to inform my opinion as I head to Parkville Presbyterian on the 5th. But the answers I received were quite informative from both candidates, so with their permission I’ve decided to share a few quotes. Hopefully this information may be useful for other voters, but mostly it’s of particular interest to me in deciding who I think should lead public policy for the next 3 years.

Full disclosure: I received answers to my questions in different formats and at different times: Nan Johnston’s responses were written up in a rather prompt response to my Facebook message. Nick Casale’s answers are quoted from a phone conversation a couple of weeks later, so you’ll notice the change in formality between the two answers, and while I tried to ask the same questions in the same way each time, there was some slight variation. On a couple of questions to Nick Casale (speaking to my amateur journalistic skills) I included the Parkville Connections project (public information that I wasn’t aware of before receiving her response) and Nan’s view on ridership numbers (a stance I’ve heard from other Parkville officials previously but only learned of Nan’s stance after receiving her Facebook message). As another piece of disclosure, I live along Bell Road, so its issues got some special treatment in my questions. You understand how that goes.

At the time of writing, I have not completely made my decision, but this has been helpful. There’s a decent amount of shared value by both candidates toward walkability, which is quite encouraging. Both candidates have also encouraged me to continue my engagement with them over this issue.

On connecting downtown to Parkville Commons, sidewalks, and road widening:

Nan Johnston:

Thank you for contacting me. I too believe in walkability and although some of our neighborhoods have a good sidewalk system, the interconnectivity is non-existent. We are doing a number of things to address some of the issues you mention.

There is a mixed-use development planned for between downtown and The Commons, appropriately named “Connections”. Due in large part to the economic downturn, it was put on hold for a number of years, but we have a renewed interest in the project again by some serious developers and it’s very possible this will be picked up soon. It will greatly improve connectivity with trails connecting the 2 areas of town.

You may have heard about the 45 highway widening, final phase that will connect K to I-435. This was identified as a priority several years ago, and is necessary for safety, as visibility is bad in areas, and there is no shoulder to speak of. Hundreds of new homes are planned on the western edge of town and the current capacity will not be able to handle the volume coming in and out of the neighborhoods. The speed limits will not increase after the lanes are added.

We have also recently completed a study of the entire 9 Hwy corridor from Hwy 45 to Riverside. You may have heard it referred to it as a widening, but we will be merely adding turn lanes to alleviate congestion. When cars get stacked up, it’s not only aggravating, but adds to poor air quality as cars idle. There is also no shoulder, or sidewalks on most of 9 Hwy, meaning that students from the University as well as other walkers, runners and cyclists are so close to the roadway, it’s frightening. This project includes a 10 foot shared use path on one side and a 5 foot pedestrian path on the other. Both paths will be separated from the roadway by curbs and a foot-wide section. Again, there are no plans to increase the speed limit. More details on this plan can be found on our website: wwwParkvilleMO.gov. Click on the “Community” tab, then on “2015 Route 9 Corridor Study”.

There is nothing in current zoning that prohibits a more pedestrian like downtown to be developed. With the assistance of public input, that is precisely what I and other City leaders feel is appropriate in the southern part of Rte 9 area of town. Part of our Downtown Vision Plan is to extent the look and feel of Main Street into the Southern section of Hwy 9 (from the University soccer fields to the Post Office). The sole intent is to actually get drivers to SLOW down by intentional re-development to create more of a downtown appearance rather than a state highway appearance. The speed limit is 25 MPH there, and there is no intention to increase the speed.

We are careful regarding master planning the future of Parkville. Because there is a huge difference between the newest northwestern areas, and the downtown area, we must carefully evaluate new commercial and residential development for the proper fit. What is appropriate in one area of town, will not be in another.

Nick Casale:

I live in downtown Parkville so these are things that are near and dear to me. Connectivity is vital to all of our citizens. And where these things need maintenance, I’d like to see it happen. Unfortunately, Nate, everything we’re talking about costs money, and when they cost money they have to be prioritized. I don’t think anyone, in the current government, or in the future if I’m elected, doesn’t think these things are important. But unfortunately, finances the way they are, it has to be prioritized. I think you will find these things coming along quicker in the future, Nate, I really do. They’re very important to a lot of people, and they’re very important to me. I mean, I, frankly, would rather ride a bicycle through town on occasion. I go to the YMCA every day, and I would love to be safe, or safer than I think I’d be given the current situation.

(when specifically asked about Parkville Connections development)

One thing that you have to consider when you get into residential areas and wooded areas behind the commons that leads up to Bell Road, now you’re dealing with residences and homes… It’s a little tricky. I applaud any of that. Any vision (for redeveloping that land) is positive and good. I think it’s a great step forward. There may be some things in the plan that you don’t see that you would rather see, but I think that any step forward right now is a positive.

(when asked about traffic studies that call for wider roads, higher speed limits and more vehicle lanes)

I’ve seen those studies, and I think the first thing that you have to deal with is that highway 9 is a state highway. It just happens to go through our town, and so trying to make hwy 9 into a local street is tough. There’s always going to be a need for a “wider”, “faster”, and “more”. Unfortunately for that mile or so from Park University up to highway 45 it’s still a state highway. I don’t know, frankly. I think that engineering being what it is, it’s always going to be to expand and increase and hold more, rather than eliminate and decrease. I can say it’s certainly something that everyone’s interested in. I think what we find for ourselves in any town… And by the way, Parkville is the largest population for any city in Platte County outside of Kansas City, Missouri… so, Parkville is growing by leaps and bounds, and it’s only going to get more. As it gets more it’s going to mean more automobiles. I wish that we were a self-sustaining community that could eliminate a lot of these cars from traveling through our town and just scurt around it and give our residents all the space they wanted to walk and bike, but that’s not going to happen. I’ve spent a lot of time downtown so I’ve seen all of the traffic that comes through — there’s a lot of traffic Nate, and I know I don’t have to tell you that. I’m just afraid that it’s going to get more — you see that project just east of Riss Lake where there’s going to be more apartments. It’s just going to get more and more, and in order to accommodate that you have to increase.

On Bell Road/Hamilton St sidewalks and safety:

Nan Johnston:

Bell road presents a challenge. If we were to install sidewalks, they would eventually be torn up, as the road is in serious need of reconfiguration. It is much too hilly, with blind spots and is dangerous. I do agree with the need for sidewalks there, however it’s probably not a wise use of taxpayers dollars to install, only to tear up a few years down the road. Future development along Bell Road could speed up the road reconfiguration and right now I couldn’t tell you exactly when improvements might take place, just that I believe it is inevitable.

Nick Casale:

As far as Bell Road is concerned, I don’t need to tell you this, but with the geography and the topography of the road, I mean, it’s never going to get any better, it’s always going to be a hilly, blind spot (filled) way for people to travel way too fast in their cars. It’s a dangerous place, and I understand that. I know there are a lot of people who live in the apartments throughout Bell Road who probably don’t feel very safe, and if they don’t have an automobile to have to walk to Price Chopper or any other place… it’s tough. Nan will have lots of answers for you based upon her knowledge of the last six years of projects going on. Aside from what I just told you I’m not sure I can offer anymore expertise, but I can tell you you have a sympathetic ear here. I am someone who would push for and prioritize any kind of sidewalk widening on the Bell & Highway 9 corridors. I think that’s part of the city growing. Bell Road has been like that since I went to Park College in the 60’s. It was a sleepy town back then, there were only a couple thousand people in Parkville and it didn’t have near the population and traffic that it does now. That wooded area that comes out of Hamilton in that culdesac before Bell… I think there are opportunities there Nate, I really do.

On RideKC bus service (specifically asking about Rt 243):

Nan Johnston:

Yes — bus service has been explored and considered and I’ve also discussed with Mayor Rose of Riverside. Since Parkville is not a “job center” like Riverside’s industrial park, there are not enough riders and we are unable to cost justify City subsidized bus service. That could change in the future however, with the addition of new jobs and it is something we will keep an eye on moving forward.

Nick Casale:

I think I echo Nan Johnston that ridership is vital to getting any kind of bus service here. The city of Riverside may be subsidizing that bus line to come through there, but remember too that the casino in Riverside pays for a whole lot of things. I don’t think it’s a dead issue, Nate. I think that you’re on track when you say that there could be some shared money here whether it be from the state or the county or maybe some federal grant of some kind that can help. I think that’s part of the conversation and I think that’s a good conversation. Because I’m with you, I’d rather sell my car and take public transportation and use a bike, so you’re speaking to a sympathetic ear here. I can only tell you that it’s something that I would pay a great deal of attention to when it comes up again.

Three things I learned about the President.

I would say I’ll never wash my hand again, but that would be a severe health code violation, and also, gross.

I received a text this morning from Kristin, one of my coworkers right before my shift at Parkville Coffee.


I seriously thought it was a joke, despite her literally telling me “this is not a joke.” Classic Kristin. But just in case it wasn’t I made my way down Main Street, where I was told “You’re not going anywhere.” The giant secret service agent eventually changed his mind after I pleaded my case that I “have a shift at 12 at that coffee shop over there.” Also, after they wanded and patted me down a few times.

Tensions were high as I walked in. Another giant secret service guy yells at me “Hold on just a minute!”; he wants to wand me down again as Kristen tells him “he works here!” A few happen-stance customers, regulars, and a couple handpicked people from the blocked off crowd were in there as we were all instructed to cram into the back of the store while the bomb-sniffing dog made his rounds. It was a real intimate moment that a barista can rarely share with the customer. I found out things such as what it looked like when everyone’s personal space was violated and what our collective body odor smelled like on a late-July Kansas City day.


Naturally, the orchestra of press packed themselves densely into a corner of the shop.


We started rehearsing what we would say, who would pour coffee, and who would ask him if he wanted room for cream. Then, about an hour of anxiety-ridden anticipatory nothingness.  It was probably more like 5 minutes, but you know how things are when the President is about to visit. Thoughts were twirling in my head, as I imagine were for my other coworkers. I noticed I was a little shaky, and remembered that I was getting a haircut at 3:15 tomorrow. Crap, why do I keep putting off shaving?  I just look more like I’m fifteen years old when I’m trying to grow a beard than when I just shave the whole damn thing. The baby-face weirdly looks older for me. 

Then, oh hey, heavily armored cars with flags on them. This just got real. After a few minutes, I look through the glass of our front door, and despite us all being told to put our phones away by men that could step on me without losing their balance, I surrender to my lack of self-control.


It’s the big guy. He’s taking his time, talking to everybody on his way, like human beings might do with other human beings who breathe air. He doesn’t seem animatronic. Maybe all those internet websites with brightly colored backgrounds and bold comic sans text were wrong.

After one of our regulars by the name of Big Al tries to sell him a car, he eventually makes his way to the counter to order. He shakes our hands one by one as we introduce ourselves. Now, important backstory: this isn’t the first time I’ve met a famous person.

I shared a sauna with Royals hall of famer George Brett for a previous employer’s company promo. At that same job, another Royals great by the name of Frank White dropped in for a visit. He was standing ten feet away so I bravely rose from my desk, shook his hand, and… well the plan was to tell him my name. But I replaced that air time with a long awkward pause. WHAT IS MY NAME? “…..It’s an honor to meet you, Mr White.” Sit back at your desk, Nathan, you’re homeschooled.

So back to Barack. Emelie and Amy push our new lavender cookies. Our roaster Tyler gives him a sample of our Ethiopian roast, which he now executively approves. We iterate that we can make literally anything! If the President of the Free World wants a 13 shot Austrian goat milk half-caf cappuccino with sprinkles, by God we’re ready. Oh, just a black iced tea? We have that too.  

Also, the man bought a ton of pastries – except for scones because “we’re not in England”. Touché.

Now remember that case of the shakes I mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago? I have since proudly conquered said shakes. After all, I remembered my own name! “Nathan. It’s a pleasure!” There was nothing I couldn’t do! So I stop Kristen, instead of standing around useless a second longer, proclaiming “I’ll put ice in it.” So I filled that sucker to the brim. I knew it was a hot day and Mr President probably needed a refreshing cold beverage while he mulled over US policy options for Gaza while simultaneously figuring out how to make my student loans magically disappear. This very act might have saved lives. I am not unimportant – I very well could have changed the course of history, in the way that a slightly less-cold drink could never fathom. 

He asked us about our lives, again, like a non-animatronic human person. I told him I was in grad school for counseling. Seriously, what are the chances I would stroll on into work and meet the President of the United States of America and look like a competent American worker in front of him!?

“This is a really good tea. A little too much ice, though.” The drink was overflowing as he wiped his hand on his presidential pants. Kristen, who poured the tea, wasted no time: “Nathan did it! It was Nathan.” It was a nice feeling of competency while it lasted, so I just shrugged as Obama walks away, and in typical folksy form, replies, “You sound just like Congress!” And as slow and deliberately as he arrived, he was gone.

Oh, and here’s the three things I’ve learned about our 44th president:

1. He has a perfect handshake. Not too firm, solid grip, appropriately timed.
2. He’s tall.
3. He now knows me as the guy who put too much ice in his Earl Grey iced tea. 

I feel that this screenshot neatly packages the events of July 30th, 2014 in a face:


What a weird day.

Baseball – Why It’s More Than a Game {VIDEO}

A piece I wrote for JustBats.com.

We’re always looking at how we’re different from one another:

whether it’s political beliefs, religion, race,

who your friends are, or who your enemies are.

When I was five years old I already knew all of these differences.

So did my brother, and we didn’t exactly get along.

Then he handed me a bat, and taught me to hit a ball with it.

And suddenly, we had something in common.

I learned how to play a game,

but it’s so much more than a game.

It was where I learned that even if you’re taller than me

I can still out-hit, and out-run you.

It was where I learned how to fail, and that it was okay

because you were going to fail too!

I learned that enemies could be friends.

It’s an incredible game.

Baseball changed everything for me

by teaching me that when you step up to home plate

with a bat in your hand

no matter where you come from,

who you are,

what you’re used to,

or what you know –

you’re still ninety feet away from first base.