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July 27, 2014

Israel-Palestine conflict for dummies (like me)

Times are tough in the Middle East right now- well, they have been tough for over 2000 years, but you know what I mean. Israel and Palestine are going at it like feral cats fighting in an alley. I never really understood the whole thing until a few years ago- most conflicts based on religion are confusing to most people anyway. To me, it seems like an asinine premise (for any religion) to kill people in the name God, and it seems like every religion has this dark period in its past.  
This guy later died from, you guessed it, a snake bite.

"But, TK, those snake handlers seem like a level-headed group, and they haven't started a holy war with the Westboro Church people, who also seem like they have a grasp on what God really wants."

True, but there are really only a few religions in the world, but many spin offs based on philosophy differences. I am definitely no theologian, but when reading about the major and minor religions it looks like they are all pretty much have the same roots. Then, somewhere along the way, somebody got pissed off and branched out to form a similar, but different, religion. I guess people didn't know they could do that, and from that point on people could defect and start their own religion as long as they could get as many people as possible to believe their little slice of interpretation. Just reading the pseudo-authoritative reference of Wikipedia on religions is enough to make someone start drinking- at 7 am.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, if "conflict" is even the right word, has been a source of confusion for me for decades. I met an Israeli soldier who was staying at a hostel in Waikiki about 10 years ago and I gleaned a lot of information on his perspective. Of course, a half a bottle of Jack will cause anyone to open up. I also have Palestinian friends and my friends are very level headed and reasonable people. In fact, it is usually my white American friends who cannot seem to keep their cool when talking about Israel and Palestine. Like most Americans who need a cause in their life to give them meaning, they are more offended than the recipients of the perceived racism, wrong-doing or injustice. Don't believe it? More guilty Americans were offended by the Washington Redskins than actual Native Americans. I could lit more, but that is a post for another day.

I will not belabor this issue more than I already have, but this video by Dennis Prager seems like a fair assessment of the geographic and political ideologies of both Israel and Palestine. If not, please explain why. "Israel murders children!" is not an explanation. I fully embrace the fact that both sides have killed children and civilians, however that is war and not a very persuasive argument for me. Also, trying to debate who started it is unproductive and senseless. However, a state run by a known terrorist group gives as much credence to the Palestinian cause as electing the Bloods to run Los Angeles.

July 6, 2014

My first (and last) pepper eating contest

“Let’s bring this hot pepper pack to the cook out,” she said.
“It will be fun!” she said.

My in-laws had a 4th of July cook out yesterday so the whole family went up to the mountains to visit, tell stories and eat some of my father-in-law’s grilling. My wife went to the store that morning to get a few things and came back with a pepper tasting kit. There were 6-8 peppers in there, mostly resembling habaneros, but there were a few smaller ones that looked really potent. After we had finished eating the BBQ, my wife brought the package of peppers out, along with some paper plates, and announced that we were going to have a pepper eating contest.

Only 4 of us committed to the contest and the rest of the family gathered around with cell phones poised for photos and video. The package had a list of the peppers along with their heat index, not a Scoville rating, but a scale from 1 to 10 with a picture of the peppers and a brief description of each. We were going to start out on the low end and work out way up the list to the hotter peppers, but we couldn’t find even a jalapeno to start out with, which only rated a 6 on the scale. The first person to take a drink would be disqualified and so on.

“That’s it, only a 6?”I said. This probably won’t be that bad. I did recognize a habanero pepper but we selected a red one to start with. Unfortunately, it was a Ghost Pepper- previously entered in the Guinness Book of World Records and boasting a Scoville rating of 800,000 to just over 1 million units. That probably doesn't mean much to anyone except the people who torture their bodies by eating these peppers, but it is 125 times hotter than the jalapeno.

My wife cut it up into 4 pieces and to her credit she promptly took the largest one, however they were all pretty much the same size- except for the tip which my brother-in-law Steve swiped before I could get to it. My other brother-in-law, Morgan, is a rather large man and I figured he would be able to handle these peppers. We all started chomping away. That was the first mistake.

With every bite, I felt the pepper oils exploding onto my pallet and when I built up enough saliva, I swallowed the chummy pepper mixture. It actually tasted quite good, even had a sweet taste, for the 1.5 seconds my taste buds actually worked after eating this pepper. Everyone was keeping their cool and high fiving, my wife and Steve actually did a chest bump, but the victory dances were short lived. Within 10 seconds, my throat felt like it was closing and Steve and I almost immediately got the hiccups, which is probably a bad sign- like the body is experiencing a high level of stress or something. Everyone, except my wife, got up off the picnic table bench and started pacing around while the intensity of the pepper started growing like an erupting volcano that is just getting started.

I am a very competitive person, and regardless of the event- video games, board games, or belching contests- my fragile ego takes a bruising if I am bested. Since there were photos and video documenting this event, I really tried my best to keep it together. After about a minute, my pride was begging me to throw in the towel, and I believe that it actually took over my conscious thought and forced me over to the cooler where I promptly chugged a bottled water. My wife promptly disqualified me from the event and I kept pacing around the table as the laughter and noise continued from the onlookers who were reveling in their Schadenfreude. My ears actually started to hurt- not from the noise, but from another side effect of the pepper.

Steve almost looked this bad
There wasn't anything on the table to eat to try and quench the fire so I went inside to find a gallon of milk. As I chugged down my first glass, Steve came in from outside, his face looked like he just got beat with a bag of persimmons. He almost looked as bad as those people who are allergic to bee stings. He later went into the bathroom and threw up. I hate throwing up and did everything I could to fight the urge, however, in hindsight, I wish I would have. The London Broil I had for dinner was just too good to offer to the porcelain gods.

By the time Steve and I got back to the table, my wife and Mo, continuing the assault on their bodies, had already eaten a second pepper. Mo was declared the winner shortly thereafter when my wife threw in the towel. After a little goading from the crowd, and to establish his pepper eating title of bat shit crazy, Mo grabbed another pepper and ate the whole damn thing. It took him a while to choke it down and the look on his face was a tell tale sign that he knew eating that third pepper was a mistake. His head was bright red and he was rubbing his face and shaved head uncontrollably to try and fight off the pain. He ran over to the inflatable pool and some of us thought he was going to drink out of it, but instead he just dunked his head into the water. If that wasn't enough, he later found the hottest pepper in that packet and at the whole thing. I am certain that he is dead as I write this blog post.

Ha! Light weights...
Twelve hours. That’s about how long it takes a Ghost pepper to make it through my digestive track and wreak havoc on my b-hole. I woke up at 6 am this morning with my stomach in a knot. I sneaked out a fart and thank God my wife was asleep. A dead horse lying in a sulfur pit would smell like a Febreeze’d couch cushion compare to this stench. I ran to the bathroom and was on the toilet for about 30 minutes. After my first release, I seriously contemplated grabbing my colon irrigation kit and filling the bag up with milk (hat tip to my sister-in-law Danielle for that option), but I didn't want to hog the other bathroom with guests in the house. Scoville units are a measure of how hot the peppers are going in, but I propose another scale that rates how bad the peppers are on the way out. Seriously, this is what it must feel like every time Satan takes a dump. I am positive my b-hole will be angry with me for the rest of the day. When I opened the door, the cat was there and meowed at me a few times- like when animals know a bad storm or tornado is approaching. She went into the bathroom, meowed at the toilet a few times and then ran downstairs.

To her credit, my wife is going about her day business-as-usual, and has had no adverse reaction to the event, other than the bright red lips and mouth she had yesterday. She has bested me in a food event, and I will gladly swallow my pride, along with the Tums I have been force feeding myself since last night.