Based on some recent experiences, I would like to relate a story about how our justice and incarceration systems are broken. Before I relate the gritty details, first I’d like to share some findings with you that disagreed with my preconceptions of the justice system. The story will be told along the way.

Myth #1: Being Read Your Rights (the Miranda Rights)

If you are going to be arrested (in this case, for a contempt of court charge relating to a traffic ticket you’ve already paid and a court date that may never have existed that you were never informed of), don’t expect to be “read your rights.” The officer who arrested me told me some sort of bupkis about it only applying to people who were being questioned in relation to a crime. Turns out they have no obligation, or desire, to inform you of your rights for other types of arrests.

Myth #2: The Pat-Down

One might believe that an officer of the law would not feel you up and touch your genitals when they pat you down for weapons (after asking you if you have any weapons and being told no). It does not feel like any less of a violation of my person because I am male. It gave me a feeling of nausea somewhere in the pit of my stomach, and I had an uncomfortable sensation in my groin for the rest of the day. I am lucky enough to have no prior sensation of violation to compare it to, but I don’t know what else to call the feeling. I was felt up twice, in fact: once at the arrest and once at the jail. We’ll get to the jail in a moment.

Myth #3: Innocent Until Proven Guilty

If you are arrested for some reason (in this case, for a warrant relating to something you’ve already paid and a series of court dates you most certainly attended with bells on), don’t expect anyone to care that you are not guilty of the crime, let alone take the expectation that you are innocent. “Innocent until proven guilty” is a nice idea that has no real-world equivalent. If there is any hint of a reason to think you’ve done anything wrong, you are treated as guilty.

Myth #4: The Phone Call

You know that old saying, something about the one phone call when you get to jail? There were phones I eventually had access to, but these phones only made local calls. I am living in a new city. The phone numbers I have memorized, such as my parents’ home phone number, my fiance’s cell phone, or my best friend’s cell phone, do not have local area codes in this city. Looks like you don’t get to make a call after all.

One of the officers took pity on me (probably because I’m “white”) and let me make a quick phone call from the desk. I don’t think most inmates get that opportunity.

Myth #5: Due Process

If you believe you would have a trial date to at least try to prove your innocence before being thrown in jail, you would be mistaken. In fact, in a county where the traffic violation and theoretical warrant did not occur, they have little to no information about any reason why you have a warrant. You will be summarily thrown in jail, the details will be sorted out later… theoretically. Ah, but there’s the bond system, right? That leads us to…

Myth #6: No Taxation Without Representation
…and also…

Myth #7: The Abolition of Debtor’s Prison
In this particular case, I was able to pay the fine, narrowly, to be released on bail for a crime I did not commit after wasting 5-6 hours of my time and giving me a terrible score as an Uber Eats driver while my delivery, and any subsequent ones, were forcibly neglected. However, what if someone were theoretically unable to pay a court fine? Or a bail fine? They would sit in prison while the outside world, and all of their life’s affairs, go by unattended. So far as I can tell, the “justice” system and incarceration system are a money-making scheme that lacks any soul. This leads me to the last, and ugliest, myth.

Myth #8: You Are Safe if You Haven’t Done Anything Wrong
I am a “white” man, 35 years of age, with no tattoos, piercings, or any history of misdemeanors, prior arrests, felonies, etc., basically anything worse than two (now three) traffic tickets. I’m sure white privilege was working in my favor throughout this ordeal, and would only have been worse if any of the above was not true.

In the past, I used to see the police as a necessary compromise for public safety. I could see there were problems with the justice system as a whole, but I also saw police officers as doing a necessary duty and keeping people safe. Changes clearly need to be made, particularly in how black people are treated, or people of any ethnicity other than “white”. I saw these things at a distance, as a theory.

Now, the police lights already make me uncomfortable, and I would go out of my way at this point to avoid them. It is not because I feel guilty, but out of a sense of fear.

What are they going to misconstrue this time? What mistake will the police make this time that I will pay for? Not wearing any reflective gear while they stand in the middle of a pitch-black road in the dead of night, with no traffic cones or other obvious signs I should stop? Will they believe I failed to yield properly while they are double-parked and not directing traffic, doing god-knows-what? Will the problem be more insidious, such as a justice system losing the record of me paying my traffic fine and inventing a court date I was never informed of? What else might go wrong? What if I was reaching for my phone to make a call and they thought I had a weapon? What if I was black?

I won’t bore you with all of the details, such as the near-mistaken identity that plagued me with someone else who has my birthday and a very similar name (I was lucky enough to have my Social Security card on me, there’s now a copy of it in my file for this reason). Suffice to say, it took forever, it was awful, and that was with fairly cordial interactions with the police. I can hardly imagine what the black woman who came in after me was going through, her night was a heck of a lot worse than mine (she was screaming mad and pregnant).

My dogs, Scrappy on the left and Cholla on the right.

My dogs, Scrappy on the left and Cholla on the right.

I’ve settled into bed, whether from an early evening or a late morning, and I am certainly not feeling like getting up. As I drift between sleep and consciousness, a natural alarm system wrenches me back to the waking world: the dog starts barking.

In my case Scrappy, the brown cairn terrier, starts barking.

Scrappy has a sharp bark. It isn’t the most high-pitched bark I’ve ever heard on a dog, but it’s loud and not terribly pleasant. It carries easily through the walls of a modern house and over the music in your headphones. It isn’t easy to ignore, though I have witnessed conversations carry on through the blitzkrieg of Scrappy’s barking somehow.

I don’t always know why it starts. Perhaps he heard a neighbor’s dog start barking. He might have heard a neighbor’s car door slam and thought it meant someone had arrived at our house. Once in a while, I have no idea what gets him going. If I’m up and about, I can just exit my room and tell Scrappy “NO” in no uncertain terms while making eye contact with him. If he’s very excited it might take a second command, but usually he stops quickly enough.

When I’m comfy in bed or in the middle of a video game sequence I can’t pause (or don’t want to pause), I might not care enough to go tell him no. In that case, he’s happy to keep barking, punctuating his insistence even through the pillow over my head.

I wonder sometimes if he is trying to be dominant or spiteful in some way, as if his ability to make noise is the one way he feels he can assert himself. I wonder if he knows I can hear him, and he feels he has struck some little victory if I don’t exit my room to shut him up. Then again, a part of me wonders if he just wants attention, like a child getting into mischief. He might be barking just because he’s bored or lonely and he wants me to come and quiet him.

If I don’t, he can bark for a couple of minutes sometimes. He doesn’t bark forever, obviously, but longer than seems necessary to any real purpose. It’s the dilemma I face. Do I give in to laziness and let him bark himself out, or do I get myself up and stop him? Either way, my previously comfy state has been disrupted for some period of time. No matter how many times I get him to stop, he just loves to bark. By the next day, or even after several hours, he may be at it again.

As for Cholla, she has the bark of a much larger dog, more low-pitched and serious. She is content to let Scrappy run things however, and rarely barks unless there is Real Danger such as an unknown person or creature.

Interestingly, when we have a lot of guests over to the house, the dogs seem to get overwhelmed and eventually go sequester themselves away in a dark corner under some furniture. I guess the people are barking too much for them.

For this review I return to an old friend, though for my international readers this cheese may not be quite so familiar. I introduce you now to the cheddar that isn’t cheddar, colby cheese.

Colby was invented in Colby, Wisconsin in 1874 by Joseph F. Steinwand. It is very similar to cheddar but does not undergo the “cheddaring” process and is not aged. Since colby is a distinctly American product I don’t know how much of it is sold internationally, so perhaps not everyone reading this has already tasted it.

I purchased a longhorn cut of Boar’s Head brand colby cheese to taste for this article. When I first taste a cheese, I always like to taste it in isolation, with no other flavors, so I started by slicing off a piece and savoring it. I was struck by the flavor similarity to cheddar, although colby is not as dry and tough as some ancient cheddars I’ve tasted. Before you send me hate mail, I’m not bad-mouthing cheddar, it’s one of my favorite cheeses. I have had some cheddar, though, that is so strong and so thick (like peanut butter) that I only need a slice or two to feel sated; that and it gums up my mouth and requires a lot of fluids to consume. Not so with colby: colby is a young cheese, moist and soft.

I was less impressed once I tried the colby with crackers, however. The cheese is quite mild and its flavor is easy to overpower. I’ve found that with age (old man here at 30), my tastes have “matured” which is another way of saying my taste buds are getting dull or dying off. I enjoy eating colby straight off the block, but the flavor is a bit too mild to pair with anything strong. If you’re looking for a finger-food cheese then colby is a delicious choice that won’t clog your mouth too quickly, and I bet it would make a mean grilled cheese sandwich. However, if you’re looking for something strong to pair with steak I’d look elsewhere.

Ultimately, colby is much like the nation of America itself: young and tasty. It won’t impress your hipster friends, it doesn’t go over well at high-class parties, and it loses some of its flavor when held up against other things, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth your time. Carve a hunk right off the block and savor the idea that a cheese can be a perfect snack unto itself.

(image courtesy of wikimedia commons:

Manchego cheese.

After Kroger and Wal-Mart both failed me (neither one here carries limburger, which is the review I wanted to write today), I bought some Don Bernardo brand manchego instead. Manchego is a cheese made from sheep’s milk, Spanish in origin. I was determined to try something new for this post, and my options were limited in that regard. I’m going to have to go further afield soon to continue writing cheese reviews.

Manchego is a hard, slightly brittle cheese with an inedible rind. Its packaging said it had a “nutty” scent, and I guess you could put it that way. I’d call it a smell just a little bit like toejam (or dirt collected underneath your fingernails during a hard day’s work), though not as pungent or nasty. It has a musky scent, and the smell is simultaneously odd and addictive in some way, much like when you smell something you know shouldn’t smell good yet you smell it anyway out of some primal instinct. For some reason, you find yourself smelling it again even though it isn’t a strictly pleasant scent.

The package claimed it had a “rich, complex flavor,” which I can agree with generally. The flavor is odd, initially striking the tongue like a faintly moldy taste. The flavor continues to change as you eat more of it though, and the first unpleasant taste fades as you find other flavors to the cheese. The texture is that of a firm, buttery, slightly crumbly cheese. I found it interesting that the cheese grew milder the more of it I ate. Something about the flavor reminded me of feta cheese.

I admit that I am not eating the manchego in its cultural context of associated food and drink, so I am probably missing some of the experience. Overall, it is a palatable cheese that one grows accustomed to with increased consumption. I believe it would work best as a garnish or next to other strong flavors, perhaps topping a salad. To be clear, it is not as strong as many other cheeses I’ve tried, just that the flavor is a bit untraditional on my American palate.

(image courtesy of wikimedia commons:

Scutigera coleoptrata, commonly known as the house centipede.

Every house has its quirks. Creaky floors, a lingering odor, doors that won’t shut, ghost sightings. These quirks tend to become part of the backdrop of everyday life, and while you may occasionally grumble about them eventually you get used to them… normally.

Unfortunately, one of my house’s quirks is Scutigera coleoptrata, the house centipede.

It’s not an infestation, per se. I learned that they prey on other insects and creepy-crawlies, so while ants or cockroaches or bedbugs range from pest to horror, the house centipede doesn’t eat your food (or you), isn’t poisonous, and actually gets rid of annoying things for you. I would liken it to having wolf spiders around the house. But… did you see the picture? I’m shuddering even now.

I rarely see them. They love darkness and they’re startlingly fast until they get really big. It lulls me into a false sense of security when I haven’t seen one for days or weeks at a time. Then one day, BAM! Out of the corner of my eye something with far, FAR too many legs goes dashing across my wall and hides behind a piece of furniture. I inevitably jump a little when this happens, because I just never get used to them. Something about them is just a bit too alien for me to appreciate aesthetically, and we all have instincts regarding sudden unexpected movements.

That’s a really polite way of saying I hate the little bastards. You eat insects for me, wonderful, now do it outside damn it! I’ve come to the conclusion that the natural defense mechanism of the species, aside from having such a creepy appearance that you don’t want to get close to it, is the awful way they smear if you don’t take exceptional care in killing them. Can you really be bothered to kill them when you’ll have to scrub the wall later? The leg-twitching of their death throes is also enough to give you nightmares.

Maybe I don’t know how good I’ve got it. Perhaps in other parts of the world they don’t have a little household predator eating pests or even poisonous things that like to slip into the house. I know some places in Kentucky have brown recluse problems, for instance, and I count myself lucky in that regard. Still, I doubt there will ever be a peaceful accord between myself and the nightmarish critters. Let the entomologists extol the virtues of the humble house centipede; myself, I plan to squish ’em.

(image courtesy of wikimedia commons: )

The time, when it isn’t blinking “12:00” at you.

The power blinks, and a moment later you hear a crash of thunder. Whew, thank goodness the power didn’t go out for hours… wait just a moment. With trepidation, you catch movement out of the corner of your eye, and you realize it’s the alarm clock.


With a sigh, you set about correcting your alarm clock. This, at least, is usually a simple matter. Alarm clocks are simple constructions with relatively few buttons, so after 10 to 20 seconds’ worth of patience, you’ve reset it. You will be able to go to work on time tomorrow, and all is well once more.

The rest of the clocks in the house, however, are another matter.

Additional alarm clocks aren’t that big of a deal if you have any, just a little hassle as you move through the house resetting the most important timepieces. Still, you feel the waste of time as the seconds pass, waiting for the time to come up correctly once more. If you don’t concentrate, it’s easy to accidentally skip past the time and waste another few seconds yet. Your true challenge lies ahead still, biding its incorrect time.

As you move into the kitchen, your eyes betray you as they slide across the room to the green glow of the microwave digital readout. You don’t want to know, yet there it is: 12:02. The time has reset.

At this point, the sort of human being you are plays a large role in your decision-making. If you crave and demand perfection in your domain, then you set about resetting the microwave clock, toiling through less friendly buttons and more arcane layout than the alarm clock. If you are a lazier sort who does not demand perfection from all displays, then the time probably wasn’t correct before the power blip on your appliances. You can go back to what you were doing as you ignore the dozens of silently screaming clock readouts arguing with each other in their own personal hell.

For the most masochistic and perfectionistic of us, your task yet remains. In the living room/entertainment room, a dazzling array of buttons, slots, glows, and wires greet your unhappy eyes as you take in the dreaded entertainment center. Some of the most merciful devices may have battery backup to keep the time fresh, but not all. It’s time to tackle the VCR/DVD/Blue Ray/Betamax clock.

This is no mere alarm clock made for convenience, nor is it a slightly awkward feature of your kitchen appliance. No, this is far more sinister. You have delved into the occult now, the world of arbitrary menus, scrolling buttons, multifunctional buttons that don’t list their other indicated purposes. You are no kindly wizard in this world of forbidden magic; to know its subtleties you must study ill-translated grimoires that came from the mystical land of Asia, must perform unholy ceremonies involving pens and screwdrivers to reach tiny reset buttons, and consult dread scrolls demarking the physiology of the machine. You are a sorcerer here, a dread necromancer casting in your lot with the soulless powers of tertiary, afterthought features.

Using your forbidden knowledge, you still must consult the scrolls and grimoires constantly as you intone blasphemous curses, waiting until such time as the stars are right, R’lyeh rises above the waves, and the VCR time is correct. Perhaps great Cthulhu will have use of you in the time to come when his Betamax player needs resetting.

Your arcane task complete, you finally grab a drink and head back to your chair, satisfied that your dread works are at last done.

It is at that moment that a boom of thunder shakes your walls once more as the power blinks. With a cosmic loathing, you catch a movement out of the corner of your eye.


(image courtesy of wikimedia commons:

The ubiquitous sandwich slice.

“BLASPHEMER!” the gods of cheese cried (I suppose that would be the French?) as I hit the publish button for this article. I can hardly fault them, since any self-respecting connoisseur would scoff at the idea of giving a serious treatment to the processed cheese industry. I was never one to step down from a challenge though, so here follows my review, in a broadly encompassing way, of American/processed cheese.

First, we need to address the “broadly encompassing” aspect of this review. I have no desire to discuss the nuances of Velveeta for an entire article at this stage of my blog, nor possibly ever unless the company hires me. Yet I could. I could talk to you about Borden vs. Kraft, I could discuss the multitudinous forms of liquid cheese such as Tostito’s White Queso Dip or the industrial version of liquid “cheddar” used on Arby’s Roast Beef and Cheddar. I could discuss the recent trend of processing nearly any extraneous flavor into a new processed cheese, such as onions, habaneros, or even fruit. I could have an entire SERIES of articles about the subject, and it’s one of the subtle joys of being an American: the effects of an industrial revolution on a nation lacking 1000 years of previous historical precedent. That’s another article though. No, I will have to speak in some generalities and hit a few highlights for you, and this article will be far from exhaustive for all of our sakes.

To the cheese! I have heard that some European nations refer to American cheese as “rubber cheese” due to its flexibility, and while I can understand the comparison the texture of our cheese is more akin to a butter cheese than rubber. This makes absolute sense, because the key factor of American and other processed cheese is that they are young cheeses. You will not find a single, solitary processed cheese which has the word “Aged” attached, and if it says “Sharp” it isn’t coming from the age of the cheese. This means processed cheeses initially have a milder flavor, and some of them are left precisely that way.

In my opinion, one of the canonical examples of what you should picture as American cheese is Kraft Singles, individually packaged for sandwiches. If you are a cheese snob you may find it unpalatable, but trust me, there are much, much worse options to represent American cheese (try a slice of government cheese acquired with food stamps if you don’t believe me, some of that almost does have a rubbery texture). I find Kraft Singles to be acceptable when I don’t have a special cheese at hand. You must understand: I LOVE cheese, and this means mediocre cheese is better than bad cheese, while bad is better than none. That said, I might grab a quick snack of a Kraft Single by itself with no accompaniment: it is a palatable cheese. It is buttery, rich, mild, and a little salty.

There is a certain swath of our industry that markets liquid “cheddar” type cheese, and it is almost universally to be avoided. The best of this ilk are cheeses that approach the quality of Velveeta. While you wouldn’t sit and eat a lob of Velveeta by itself – probably – it makes a good accompaniment to dishes such as macaroni and cheese (Velveeta Shells and Cheese is a tasty dish in particular). Velveeta is extremely rich, quite salty, and is stronger than a typical American cheese. However, companies cut corners and don’t use a brand-name product like Velveeta, so you are stuck with whatever knockoff got the lowest bid for their chain of restaurants. Such cheeses are barely palatable when masked by other food, and become downright intolerable when sampled alone. The flavor of a bad liquid “cheddar” is hard to describe: watered-down, chemical, bland, and often with an aftertaste. There are varying degrees of course, as I said, some are closer to Velveeta in flavor.

As an aside here: the concept of liquid cheese is one area processed cheeses have old-fashioned cheeses over a barrel with. There are some specific classic cheeses that melt well, but the list is not that long. Practically every processed cheese can be turned into chip dip or a grilled cheese sandwich if you wish. The ability of processed cheese to so easily conform to another state of matter allows it a niche in some types of cooking and gives a chef looking for creativity in their recipes another tool in their arsenal.

Ultimately, my final assessment is that American/processed cheese is a guilty pleasure. The guilt comes from the knowledge that better cheese exists, and that we support mega corporations with our patronage while slowly stamping out variety. The pleasure is just that: a rich, mild, salty, fatty cheese that melts well into all the comfort foods we love. If you decide to sneak a few Kraft Singles, there will be no judgment coming from me. ^_~

(image courtesy of wikimedia commons: