My Internal Pandora is Stuck on a Loop

Every now and then, my brain has the oddest tendency to get stuck on a particular song. Like a needle on a scratched LP vinyl (for those who remember), I hear the same tune and phrase over and over. It isn’t even that I get the entire piece of music. It is just a short snippet of lyric and note that will wedge itself in my conscious, linguistic portion of my mind, and I am doomed to be singing it to myself all day long. No attempts to dislodge it with other similarly repetitive notes will work. Even when I become engrossed and distracted by the actual productive activities of the day, it is but a brief interlude before… “It’s a small world afterall…” And no, that is not the song that got stuck today. It just illustrates the point so beautifully; not to mention that you are all now sharing my grief with the proverbial soundtrack to the realms of Tartarus playing in your skulls… Muahahahahahahaha!

Ok, so maybe not. It is entirely possible that your will is so strong that the insidious seeds of mental torture are incapable of ensconcing themselves into your conscious and subconscious to play in a never ending loop. You might be one of the lucky ones who do not have the plague of songs waiting to absorb your neural energies with their continued repetition.

I, however, am not so lucky. It could happen at any point. A good many times, it occurs upon waking. There is the random song (or worse, an advertisement jingle) that has just *bamf* appeared in my forebrain waiting to tie up all my verbal processes while I try to get the record in my head to quit skipping and playing the same small section of music and words over and over and over… and over…

It might help me to even understand from whence the stream of notes and syntax has arrived to plague my thoughts. Sometimes, I can almost guess. I figure that I probably heard a random bit of something on the car radio or as elevator music somewhere along the path of my day. Sometimes, it may be that there were just a couple of words spoken with a lilt that called to mind a particular phrase in a chorus or a verse that remains glued to the inside of my head echoing for hours (and sometimes days). It might even be that I just read something in an email or instant message at work or even on social media at some point that excited the neural pathways in the auditory portion of my brain to make it light up like Christmas (because, yes, I am one of those people who actually “hear” the words when I read them on paper or screen). It could be any of these very logical and incredibly rational explanations for why a song gets stuck in my head like a shred of beef jerky between two molars in the back of my jaw, aching until a toothbrush or floss can be obtained.

And then… there are the other ones, the ones that pop into my conscious thoughts for no apparent rational cause. These are the ones that truly make me doubt my sanity and consider that perhaps there really are government or alien entities beaming thoughts into my head… where is my aluminum foil?!? While I’m not quite ready to subscribe to outlandish theories, I really do become extraordinarily curious about how my brain links up all the different pathways to bring those specific words and notes to rattle around incessantly until I want to pierce my own eardrums with icepicks.

When I imagine it, there are flow charts in my head that have yes and no dichotomies in a decision tree that ultimately results in the bizarre and random thoughts that seem to occur as if by magic or divine intervention. The scientific part of me knows that there are links somewhere, somehow… But the childlike wonder in me says “It’s magic. It’s a message.” Today is one of those days.

The song that presented to my brain unbidden was from the movie Meet the Robinsons. It is titled “Little Wonders” by Rob Thomas. I cannot attribute the presence of this musical interlude to any multimedia influence as television and radio had not presented it to my ears. Additionally, I hadn’t seen the movie (though I do like it a lot) in quite a long time. The song itself is one that, despite my best efforts to stave them off, will bring me to a wistful or even morose place. I have actually been brought to tears by this song, though the theme itself is quite positive.

And so here I sit… tune stuck in my head… tearing up, and so very thankful no one can see me as I wail away like a big derpy girl. Why did this one pop in for a visit today? I guess I’ll take the message this time as “Appreciate the positives and take the win…” I guess if we can all learn to appreciate the moment we might stand a better chance of moving forward instead of getting stuck in the past.

Let it go,
Let it roll right off your shoulder,
Don’t you know the hardest part is over,
Let it in,
Let your clarity define you,
in the end,
We will only just remember how it feels.
Our lives are made in these small hours,
These little wonders,
These twists & turns of fate,
Time falls away,
But these small hours,
These small hours still remain.
Let it slide,
Let your troubles fall behind you,
Let it shine,
Until you feel it all around you and I don’t mind,
If it’s me you need to turn to,
We’ll get by,
It’s the heart that really matters in the end,
Our lives are made,
In these small hours,
These little wonders,
These twists and turns of fate,
Time falls away,
But these small hours,
These small hours still remain.
All of my regret,
Will wash away some how,
But I can not forget,
The way I feel right now,
In these small hours,
These little wonders,
These twists and turns of fate,
These twists and turns of fate,
Time falls away but these small hours,
These small hours, still remain,
Still remain,
These little wonders,
These twists and turns of fate,
Time falls away,
But these small hours,
These little wonders still remain.

                                (Rob Thomas, 2007)

Attack of the Vapers: Happy Vapoversary!


Despite conflicting arguments, bad press, and junk science working against the movement, more and more people are switching to vaping and electronic cigarettes. I have to loudly say, “Congratulations!” to all of those who have chosen to make a better choice for their health (Action on Smoking and Health, 2014) and their finances by switching from combustible toxicants to vaping and electronic cigarettes. So, good job to all of you!

We just attended the one-year vapoversary of a local establishment, Vapor Boss. I’ve not been to a vast number of vaping events, but I was truly impressed with the turn out for this one. It also made me happy because the folks who own and run this store (and a large portion of their regular patrons) are part of what I consider the responsible voices and presence in the world of vaping and electronic cigarettes.

As it happens this particular vapoversary corresponds with what will be a year free of combustible tobacco in my own home. Since that time, I have watched people I never expected to switch over move from trying to vaping occasionally to even becoming vaping enthusiasts and advocates. I’ve watched social media participants and interest groups become well-informed and take action to make vaping responsible and keep it viable. I have seen vapers and vendors alike become more knowledgeable and resources to their peers and customers. By no means have all obstacles and outcomes been measured, but I have truly been pleased with the fact that vaping has not been a trend or a fad but a true lifestyle change for a lot of people… and one that has been positive for the majority.

What are some of the contributing factors to vaping success?

Technology. Just from my own observation, I would have to say that one of the biggest contributing factors is that the technology has evolved… a lot… in a hurry… and continues to do so. Nothing keeps the modern day internet-and-tech-loving human connected to a trend like the advent of newer and better toys. I’m not kidding, and I don’t mean that in any way as a negative commentary. I’m pretty certain that the advances in mods (mechanical and digital), tanks, and drippers that not only improve the quality of vapor but also engage the ingenuity of the person vaping (not to mention the “shiny” factor) has kept many a dabbler interested long enough to become a full-time vaper. If everyone was still stuck with only the PG (propylene glycol)/PEG (polyethylene glycol) cartridge style e-cigs with no other option, I would bet my favorite mod that the people who have switched to full-time vape would probably be back on their combustible tobacco. No offense to the look-a-likes, but the quality of those original e-cigarettes was deplorable, and without the improvements that the industry has made, I seriously doubt that vapers would be at the 2.7 million strong population in the United States (not counting other countries that have also embraced the vape) that last tallies estimated (Statistic Brain, 2015).

E-juices. This is another area where innovation and human creativity/ingenuity has improved quality and made the industry more viable and given more longevity to the efforts of those making the choice to switch over to what proposes to be a healthier alternative to combustible tobacco. The elimination of PEG has improved quality and decreased some of the identified hazards of the initial electronic nicotine delivery systems. Flavor options, VG (vegetable glycerin) increase, and improved distilling have opened up new options for people and have given those starting on the vaping journey better and more varied choices to help them find what fits their tastes. Additionally, the fact that there are many creative vendors creating new flavors and custom blends has been a boon to the market and kept many a die-hard cigarette user from returning to the ashtray.

Responsibility. For all that people were up in arms about the government sticking their nose into their vaping lounges and taking away their right to flavors, so far, it has not happened. That is not to say that there will not ever be an imposed FDA regulation. It is likely that at some point, the federal government at the behest of lobbyists from the moneybags of corporate America (like big tobacco and big pharmacology) will start to impose tariffs and restrictions on the local markets and small businesses that may sting (a lot). However, one of the major movements that has probably staved off the “big brother” invasion for the time being is self-regulation by the vaping community. Responsible vendors and advocates have recognized that while most of the adult vaping community might be trusted to act in an appropriate way, not everyone who choses vaping for their nicotine delivery system is a responsible adult. As I said to another friend at the vapoversary today, “Irresponsible people are why we can’t have nice things.” (I might have used different words than “irresponsible people” but we won’t go into that.) What has truly been inspiring is how the vaping community has stepped up to self-regulate things like underage sale bans, the use of appropriate e-liquid containers, normalization of content and warning labels, and customer education. Organizations such as TSFA (TN Smoke-Free Association), CASAA (Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association), and The Vaping Militia have stepped forward with other organizations to provide a voice of reason and advocacy by promoting safe practices and responsibility in the use of electronic nicotine delivery systems. Are there still disreputable vendors out there who don’t care what the sell or whether anyone gets injured/ill from their products so long as they make a profit? Of course there are, but the community as a whole has stepped up in providing education and those types of businesses are starving out little by little as the customer base starts recognizing who they can and cannot trust.

Community support. Humans are social creatures, and whether we admit it or not (excepting, of course, certain antisocial or avoidant elements of society), we all appreciate a little peer support now and again. The prevalence of social media groups, local meet-ups, local and state advocacy groups, and YouTube channels have allowed for vapers to connect with each other for support, education, and organization. People are able to find out from other vapers the do’s and don’ts, vendors that can be trusted (and those who really shouldn’t be), the safety concerns of particular devices or practices, “cloud-chasing” tricks, and the latest concerns about “big brother.” That connection has helped spread the word and helped vaping be safer and more reputable. It has served to provide forum for all the previously mentioned factors.

So, my parting shot for this AOTV post is: Keep up the good work, vaping community! Congratulations to all of you who have done your homework and made informed choices. And last, but certainly not least… Happy Vapoversary!

Action on Smoking and Health. (November, 2014). Electronic cigarettes.

Statistic Brain. (February, 2015). Electronic Cigarette Statistics.

Do you even… bruh? A naturalist’s study of Ductusscchetto vulgaris: The common douchebag

I speak now of the common white-sunglasses-wearing variety of human… they smell of vinegar and water. We’ve all encountered them. They exist in many different regional habitats, and sometimes they even migrate. They are hip. They are chic. They are “too cool for school.” They are full of swagger and superiority… so much so, in fact, that they feel compelled to inflict their superiority upon the rest of the world, whether we like it or not. They are the kings (and queens) of the must-have trends, and they have mastered the art of the selfie. We know this, (why?) because they take about a blue-billion of the things every day and share them with the world and all their dearest friends and followers on social media that they have never met in the flesh.

Size & Shape

Though mannerisms and verbiage would incline one to believe that this species is of a large and imposing stature, it is not always the case. While having some very specific and discrete characteristics that identify the species, there is a vast range of size and shape associated with the Ductusscchetto vulgaris. The size of the species is often inversely proportional to the extremes of behavior. However, this is not universal and there have been instances of larger examples of the species behaving quite outlandishly.

Color Pattern

As with size and shape, D. vulgaris presents in any number of natural skin tones (some of which were obtained in a no where close to natural manner). However, this particular species does ornament themselves with external accessories and does provide a great variety of presentation interesting to the observer. Often, these ornamentations appear to give the individual some sort of connection or status within the social grouping they have chosen. While not always what might be considered flattering, they are generally always very trendy. As noted, they seem to be drawn especially to white-framed sunglasses (especially of a highly priced nature) and hats with flatten brims that do not fit well (as evidenced by the fact that they will not stay straight on the head).


As noted in the physical characteristic description, D. vulgaris comes in many shapes and sizes, but the universally recognizable characteristics are in the behavior. Frequently imposing, though not in stature alone, D. vulgaris inserts himself (or herself, not to be gender biased) into most circumstances without invitation or welcome. Most actions are calculated to garner the greatest amount of attention possible. Negative or positive bears no weight. All attention is good attention. D. vulgaris uses vocalization, physical presence, proximity, and occasionally motor conveyance to make sure that they achieve the goal of notice. Loud and raucous conversation, usually about perceived superiority in various activities is used in posturing ritual to establish dominance. Verbalizations are rife with buzzwords and colloquialisms with which they seem only to have a passing acquaintance with definition and actual syntax. Often, there are mating displays with various forms of physical and verbal proposition and proximity violations that can be compared to the physical posturing of the mountain gorilla or various unguent species such as deer, elk, and moose. D. vulgaris frequently appears to have perceptual deficiencies or maladaptation that prevents them from understanding hints or subtle indications from targeted individuals that they are not receptive to their advances.

Additionally, D. vulgaris makes attempts to eliminate competition and secure territory by making the area around them completely intolerable. Additionally, certain members of the species feel the need to be voluble in a non-verbal way. This includes grunts, growls, and incomprehensible vocalizations (much like those of other simian species) during tasks requiring physical expenditure, fitness activities, and reaction to members of their sexually targeted population. Additionally, these individuals utilize tools such as motor vehicles to stimulate the auditory senses and draw attention. This includes revving engines as well as the addition of accessories to their form of conveyance that produces vibrations to imitate the sounds of bumble bees in a coffee can. (We can only assume that this somehow stimulates the species sexual drives or possibly is a way to flush out their food source, it is a mystery and serves no apparent purpose for the motor conveyance.)


The behavior attributed to mating habits has already been addressed for the most part, but additionally, it might be noted that the male of the species appears to use the least eloquent verbiage in their attempts to woo the targeted individual. Frequently, “How you doin’?” is an opening gambit. However, these attempts seem to change with other sociological and entertainment media influence. The female of the species can be identified by the call, “I’m so drunk!”


Much as other invasive species have taken over territory and nearly eradicated the native indigenous specimens, D. vulgaris has invaded most habitats and can be found in a wide variety of geological and sociological environs. However, they can be found in greater numbers in establishments where there are “SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS” or a vast supply of the beverages made of barley and hops. It is possible that they congregate in these settings due to some biological drive and migration pattern, or it may be a phenomenon like that of watering holes in the savannah. D. vulgaris also can be found in temples dedicated to the physical fitness. While the native species tend to focus on the benefits of movement and activity for health reasons, D. vulgaris generally attends this type of worship more for the benefit of attention seeking and ornamental posturing with the overly loud vocalizations to emphasize their prowess. This has often deteriorated into territorial disputes resulting in indigenous species attrition in many of these haunts.


While not much is known about the universal diet of D.vulgaris, the individuals of the species are more than willing to dominate conversations and social gatherings with trendy dietary choices that are guaranteed to change their physical composition, regale terrified groups of people with intestinal woes related to various intolerances, or brag of the copious nature of their appetite and carnivorous habits. Generally, it can be said that if there is a particular type of food that is unpalatable or sickening to the audience in question, that will be discussed at length without any particular perception of negativity on the part of listeners. On occasion, D. vulgaris will take food from other species uninvited, especially if it inserts them to the notice of the group in question.

Similar Species

Ductusscchetto vulgaris or the common douchebag is similar to the jerk, misogynist, egoist, narcissist, bore, braggart, musclehead, skanks, mean girl, and egomaniac. There are subtle differences as well as gender specificity for some categories. The population sadly appears to be growing and terribly invasive, as stated earlier. Measures need to be implemented to control the population growth and promote conservation of more useful organisms.

SERIES: Email Diseases: How they affect your life and how you can avoid them (Issue 3: Skimmers and non-readers)

This is less a documentation of an email disease than an irritation and pet peeve; so, less of an illness to cure than a bad rash… yeah, that works as a metaphor.

In today’s world of technology dependence, telecommuting, and distance education, personal interaction and direct communication has taken a back seat to texting, instant messages, self-directed learning platforms, and email. We spend less time in face to face communication with coworkers and staff than we do typing on our keyboards and putting our thoughts out over the ether in a variety of characters and digits.

And here begins my tale of woe. Well, maybe not so much my woe as my ire? All I know is that it is frustrating and irritating to the Nth degree.

I understand how it is. As the recipient of a metric crap-ton of email (seriously, I was out for one day and came back to literally 743 unread emails in my inbox… not including spam). We spend an inordinate amount of time sifting though and reading electronic communications. The modern age has given rise to a number of scams and advertisement driven electronic communication that drowns us all in useless drivel and time-wasting blathering. Most of us have spam filters that provide some defense and decrease the sheer weight of worthless email and potential security breaches and identity theft risks. However, the legitimate communications can often equal or outnumber all the phishing and natural male enhancement ads on the planet.

It’s a time sucker. I know it. You know it. The down side? It is often the only option for communication in what has become a modern, virtual workplace. The days of paper trails and memos are not so much gone as changed. We communicate by phone, conference calls, video conferences, WebEx, text message, and instant message. The old fashioned paper memos served a purpose. The were communication devices that also left a somewhat permanent reference that could be kept for future. This was especially important for policy changes, new procedures, and announcements.

Translate that to the modern day workplace. Verbal communication, instant messages, and texts are not a suitable format for mass communication or information to be used as reference. This is where email is especially important. Email is used when there is a need for “electronic paper trail.” In other words, email provides a similar version of communication that paper memorandum once did.

So, what is the problem? There are certain types of people in the workplace. I’ll call them the “skimmers” or “non-readers.” I admit there is a lot of unimportant fluff that can get passed around the office networks, but the bottom line is that this is, for most corporations the line of communication through which the important information flows. When staff do not read their email, it means that they may fail to follow new procedures or miss important updates. To often the excuse for mistakes is “I didn’t see that,” or “I must have missed it.”

Wow. That’s a heck of an excuse. The whole reason that someone put the effort in to convey the information in a more stable and durable format was to allow future reference. As someone who tries to keep email to a pertinent minimum, it really does sting to hear the phrases above. Aside from failure to follow instructions, it also is dismissive of the efforts of the author and of authority when that person is a management or other leadership role.

Skimming might actually be worse than just ignoring. While deleting or ignoring important email communications can result in missed information, skimming can result in misinterpretation and translation of details that could result in potentially devastating mistakes or the exact opposite of desired outcomes.

Skimmers and non-readers tell their employers and management teams (by their behavior) that they don’t really care about the job or anything that the leadership has to say. I’m not saying that every supervisor on the planet is a modern day messiah imparting wisdom of the ages, but usually these people are trying to give information that will help everyone do and, more importantly, keep their jobs. So, before you hit the delete button on the next inbox influx or skim through a pile of electronic communication, keep in mind that your decision could result in important information being missing from your knowledge base. That missing information could impact your success or lack thereof.

For the email authors out there, to avoid the risk of skimming and ignoring, keep emails short and concise. Use bullet points to outline important information without excessive verbiage. Organize information into logical patterns. Keep on point, and avoid tangents. Try to stick to one topic or subject in an email to allow for easy sorting and categorizing. Avoid mailing lists with too broad a recipient focus. Broadcast emails should be limited, in number and length.

So, senders, keep your emails targeted and recipients specific. Recipients, read your emails. Chances are they were sent to you for a reason.