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390925_10151719589764529_421215226_nI have just received a copy of my first peer-reviewed publication, Paloutzian and Park’s Handbook of the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality (2nd ed.).  I was the second author on Chapter 16:  Religiousness, Social Psychology, and Behavior (pg. 312). Our chapter was about how religiousness changes outward behaviors toward others – in terms of helpfulness, aggression, how people view themselves (self-identity), and some attitudes towards social issues like abortion and capital punishment.

To check out (or buy) the book on Amazon, you can click the picture to the right.

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Many people and celebs wonder just how to get rich in 10 easy steps.  Now you can too, with these 10 easy steps used by celebs such as Rihanna.

  1. First start out with lots of money like Warren Buffett.  It is essential to get rich quick while working from home.
  2. Invest in gold in 10 easy steps like Rihanna and Johnny Cash.
  3. Consider creating a viral video on YouTube and get up to 15 million hits like Katy Perry.
  4. Promote your website using SEO optimization with no money down.
  5. Remember that The Beatles vs. The Rolling Stones.
  6. Take the money and make it more numerous through smart investing with no money down.
  7. “Work from home” +no work +autotune
  8. “You have to spend money to make money”
  9. Don’t get discouraged depression lost hope no money
  10. Just be yourself Jesus loves you.
  11. I wrote this post to be satirical but I’m now realizing that spam on the Internet just isn’t funny.  In fact the Internet isn’t even funny.  You can’t even be meta about it.  Look at that junk – we have to wade through that crap every day.  Just joking about it actually just compounds the problem.  I’m sitting here literally looking through like 900 spam comments caught by Akismet on my blog.  Can people really sell stuff that way?  I guess they wouldn’t keep doing it if it didn’t work on some level.  But gosh, it’s just irritating.  And it’s irritating in a way that can’t even be funny, which is the worst kind of irritating.  The choice is between that stuff and inane image memes on Facebook – or go outside maybe.  And our generation just keeps plummeting deeper and deeper into the Internet, deceiving themselves into thinking that they’re establishing real human contact out there somewhere – but beyond a certain point you’re just taking yourselves away from the people and places you actually love – in real life.  We can’t find jobs, we’ve got student loans and enormous medical bills looming on the horizon, and Zuckerberg just keeps us glued to our computers, hoping to see that little red notification pop up so we can see if somebody we barely knew from high school “liked” our content-and-emotion-free status updates.  I wonder where this new digital age is taking us, and whether future digital-archaeologists will have to sift through 10,000 spam comments to find a genuine human interaction in the same way that archaeologists now sift through a hill-full of silt just to find a piece of pottery.

Lorne_Michaels_David_Shankbone_2010When I was a young kid in the late 1900s, I used to think that Saturday Night Live was the most grown-up thing imaginable. It was cool. It was on the cutting-edge of show business. It was risqué. It was late at night. I thought I was the coolest kid around when my parents would let me stay up and watch. Ever since then, SNL has been one of my favorite shows, and I have always admired its smart comedy and featured talent, from Wayne’s World to Norm MacDonald to Tina Fey.

Then, when I got a little older and started writing and performing music, in my wildest dreams I would envision myself one day getting famous enough to play as the musical guest on SNL.

However, life caught up with me and I found my calling not as a songwriter, but as a father and a student of psychology. So I abandoned my dream of ever being on that stage, and now I’m just raising my family and working hard at my master’s thesis.

Then again, I have been reading some of the history of Saturday Night Live, and once again came across the fact that way back in Season 3, a few years before I was born, you had a contest called “Anyone Can Host,” in which Miskel Spillman, aged 80 years old, won and was given the opportunity of a lifetime. Based on what was likely the rousing success of that show, you never had a contest like that again.

I’m writing this blog post to help you revisit that idea. Let me host your show.

I know what you’re thinking, and I understand. Maybe I don’t have any “qualifications” or “acting talent.” Maybe I actually know very little about how shows are “filmed” and “produced.” It’s possible that I would be a kind of ratings “wild card,” and maybe it’s likely that I would just “embarrass myself.” And who knows, maybe I haven’t really been “watching” the show since I got Netflix and can’t afford cable. Perhaps I’m actually not willing to put any “work” into this or “follow this through.”

And you know, it’s possible that I “freeze up” around anyone remotely famous, and feel like I want to “vomit.” Maybe I turned into a “babbling idiot” the day I met Michael Wilton‘s wife (yes, the Michael Wilton’s wife) at their kid’s soccer game in Seattle. Maybe the one time I met Alan Sparhawk, the lead singer and guitarist of the underground indie band Low, I “made my wife talk for me.” Maybe when I saw King’s X play at a festival in Cincinnati a few years ago, and got the band to sign my guitar, I saw them play again a few months later and Doug Pinnick pointed out that he “didn’t remember me” (yes, the Doug Pinnick didn’t remember me).

Maybe my religious upbringing would cause me to feel “uncomfortable” saying bad words, discussing adult topics, or drinking or smoking on the air, causing me to be somewhat “limited” in what skits I would feel comfortable being in. Maybe the only two “outcomes” out of this would be 1) I completely fail and do so in front of millions of people, or 2) do moderately well and become “Joe the Plumber” famous, causing me to forfeit my hard work in graduate school only to sink into obscurity empty-handed a year later with only a short Wikipedia stub to comfort me.

And so what if my only “acting experience” was a play in high school, where I “forgot my lines” and quit theater because I kept “forgetting my lines.” Maybe I have very little “comedic timing” or the ability to “empathize” with characters.  Maybe I have no “room” in my “schedule” for the time off to be on SNL. Maybe I haven’t really “thought this out entirely,” or I’m just writing this open letter because I’m “avoiding” doing work on my master’s thesis, which is only halfway done.

And hey – it’s possible that the reason I quit performing music and never landed anything remotely like a record deal, is that I was only “local musician” good and not “actually” good. Maybe my voice is, as my close friends say, “pitchy.” Maybe during the few moments in my career when I actually got somewhat close to what I thought could be a break, I “lost my grip on reality” so to speak. And perhaps being on television would send me “plummeting over the edge” and “wishing I could have my innocence back.” And maybe I’m stretching the already-thin premise of this blog post tissue-paper thin because, as I said before, I really need to be working on my master’s thesis and this is helping to distract me from writing my master’s thesis.

But let’s face it – this is the new face of celebrity, right here. We both know that this is how it works these days: someone without qualifications or talent does something derivative but mildly funny (not LMAO funny, but sort of heh funny)  on the Internet, on a blog nobody reads (check), and then suddenly a bunch of people share it on social networks and Twitter and what not, and it goes viral and then Reddit does something and then the networks take notice, and finally I do whatever I want. That’s how it works. I don’t need talent, I just need a bunch of robotic minions to take five seconds out of their busy schedules full of internet pornography and petitions for their state to secede from the US, and arbitrarily click share. I don’t even have to be funny or talented – I just have to be so deluded that I really think I deserve this.

Because I do. I do deserve this.

I’ve been putting ice cubes in my drinks for my whole life. But I hate ice in my drinks. I hate how they take up drink real estate, I hate how cold they make my drinks, I hate trying to get at the last drop at the bottom of my glass only to have an ice avalanche right in my face, I hate trying to drink around the cubes that invariably block up and congregate – nay, fight over – the space right in front of my lips as I’m trying to sip. Even worse are ice cubes made from tap water that infect perfectly delightful-tasting beverages with that nasty freezer-flavored mineral taste. I don’t really mind cool drinks that aren’t cold. As long as they’re even a little cooler than room temperature, I’m fine. I don’t need to decrease my core temperature thirty degrees just to enjoy the taste of a beverage.

So why do I keep doing it?

Because that’s what people do when they get drinks in America. How else are you supposed to drink it? Besides, any time I try to buck the system and just pour a drink into a glass without ice, it seems that someone challenges my decision with this look of astonishment. “We have ice, don’t you want ice? Your drink doesn’t have ice.” I don’t want to make a fuss – I don’t want my drinking behavior to stand out. I don’t want to have to explain all the different reasons I don’t like ice in my drinks. So I just do it even though I hate it.

And I’ve just ignored the cognitive dissonance this creates for a long time. It’s so strange that a person that prides himself on at least a tasteful degree of non-conformity (me) should be such a pushover when it comes to drinking beverages.

About a week ago I heard a brilliant metaphorical reference to the Maginot Line on Law and Order and decided that I was going to try to weave my own reference to the Maginot Line into a conversation to wow people with my historical knowledge.  But then none of my friends gave me any real opportunity to do it organically. I had this impressive, strong metaphor just built and ready to go but it ended up being completely useless. Thanks a lot, everyone.

The_Nantucket_School_of_Philosophy__1887I just saw someone make a comment online that high schools should have philosophy in their curriculum, and that it would increase standardized test scores.

I used to think that philosophy was all sophistry and dumb thought experiments, and didn’t pay it much attention. I think it was because I resented a field that 1) I didn’t understand at the time, 2) had such an esoteric language that it seemed impenetrable, and 3) was full of people that seemed very, very full of themselves. However, University of Kentucky required a symbolic logic class to all undergraduates, and that class went over logical fallacies, symbolic logic, and basic philosophy. I have to say that in hindsight that was one of the hardest, yet most important classes I ever took. It really did improve the way I thought about arguments, the way I engaged in discourse, and the way I viewed my own ability to think. It caused me to re-evaluate the assumptions I used to navigate the world. It also drove me to really pursue philosophy due to the realization that there’s no getting around it. They say that “If you say you’re not doing philosophy, you’re probably just doing it poorly,” and that is so true.

It especially made a difference when I started to study the theories behind psychology.  I had such a hard time trying to study consciousness from a purely Dennettian-type materialism (that seems to under-gird a lot of modern psychological theory).  It just didn’t work for me, and it was hard to deal with psychology without a real working theory of consciousness (Aristotle and Aquinas made this much easier for me).

The other cool thing about knowing a little philosophy is that it becomes easier to spot the overbearing people online who look like they know a lot but are really just bullies.

I don’t claim to be a philosopher or an expert or anything like that. In fact, the deeper I get in philosophy, the more I realize that I’m pretty much an idiot (my friends might note the marked decrease in online arguments I’ve gotten into since, say, 2006). But even a little formal training in logic and philosophy went a long, long way for me. I would totally support mandatory basic philosophy instruction for people in every field, and even in high school.

A while back I wrote about the procedure done to determine whether I had skin cancer.  I had 16 moles biopsied and/or removed on my body.  Needless to say, waiting to know if you have cancer is extremely unpleasant, especially considering that it was a painful procedure that took me weeks to recover from.  I didn’t end up having cancer, but 11 of the moles were abnormal and the doctors had to remove even more flesh around them.

Right before the first procedure happened, I was advised by the dermatologist’s office that I needed to find out what labs were covered by my insurance so I wouldn’t end up having an extremely expensive lab bill.  I called the insurance company I had at the time and they gave me a list of covered labs, and picked one from the list.

A month ago, I received a lab bill from them anyway, for $2100.

Obviously, this was a shock to me.  $2100 is a lot of money for a guy like me, who is currently living off government assistance to help me get a degree.  My wife works two jobs and we have two children.  I can’t just wave my hand and conjure up that kind of money.  The last time my car broke down I had to release an album to get the funds to pay for it.  Furthermore, my consternation was amplified by the fact that it was a lab that supposedly was covered by my insurance.

So I called my insurance (Pierce and Pierce insurance, which was the mandatory insurance for graduate students at Georgia Southern University at the time) and asked them what gives.  What the lady on the phone told me shocked me even more.  Apparently they only cover skin biopsies if the results come back malignant.  That’s right, there’s no way of knowing whether the test is paid for until the results come back, meaning that the choice was between paying for 16 biopsies, or having cancer (and having the tests paid for).  With my financial situation, I’m not sure which I would have chosen.

I guess I should have been aware of what my insurance would cover, which means reading through the 30 pages of fine print I had to sign just to get it.  But it was the mandatory insurance for Georgia Southern students, and opting out of it would also have been a painful and involved process.  Plus I’m not sure whether this is standard practice among insurance companies, and never could have predicted that I would have so many abnormal moles that would one day need to be biopsied, when I signed up.  Maybe all insurances at this price level wouldn’t cover biopsied moles that only come back abnormal and not malignant.

However, the lady at Pierce and Pierce told me that I could appeal the decision if I could get my doctors to write a letter stating that the procedure was “medically necessary.”  The irony should be obvious that the point of a biopsy is to determine whether I have a serious condition – we didn’t know if the biopsy was necessary until the results come back.  If I can get my doctor to write that letter, then it’s up to Pierce and Pierce’s appeals board (or whatever) to determine whether my procedure really was “medically necessary” and therefore covered.

Obviously, I don’t know what incentive their appeals board has to pay for my procedure.  They make money by denying claims.  They hold all the cards.  I’m not even a paying customer anymore – Georgia Southern has switched their mandatory insurance to a different company (perhaps due to people complaining about crappy service at Pierce and Pierce).

But why wouldn’t an insurance company have incentives for preventative or exploratory procedures?  They would obviously be paying much, much more if I neglected to go to the clinic until I did develop cancer.  Abnormal moles very often turn into cancerous moles, so wouldn’t they rather pay a little bit now than a lot later?

This is just one of the many problems I had with Pierce and Pierce.  For instance, I once had an asthma attack on a holiday, and the clinic I went to couldn’t call them to verify my insurance, so I wound up in the ER.  I don’t like going to (and paying for) the ER if I can help it, but I couldn’t help it thanks to Pierce and Pierce’s horrible verification process.

I’m not writing this to complain about the health care situation in the United States (though if you want to do that, by all means, feel free), nor is it a plea for money (we can get on a payment plan if we have to and just work it out), nor am I trying to be political or a whiner.

I do hope, however, that anyone who is considering Pierce and Pierce Insurance (it is now called Chartis Educational Markets), perhaps due to it being mandated by their school or company, who has a history of cancer should be aware that they may not cover biopsies unless they come back malignant.  You should consider opting out of the insurance and finding something better.  They’ll probably make the process difficult, but it would be worth it to save you some money.