Rub-a-dub-dub?! [#FFF Selection]

Too cool! Glad it was enjoyed! ūüôā

KURT‚ėÖBRINDLEY

Ha ha…what more can I say about the two submissions in response to today’s prompt other than they both are frikkin’ awesome and just the bizarre fun and wonder I was hoping for. The only problem is having to choose one over the other.

I had pretty much resolved myself to the international standard selection process of the Flipping of the Coin to let Chance decide. However, right before the flip, as the coined balanced precariously on my thumb, I manned* up, so to speak, and decided that I would not choose my selection by such a cop-out of a way.

The selection had to be up to me not a coin. I had to find a way to differentiate between the two. So I got to thinking about what if it were me writing a response to the prompt. Which response would I be more likely to write ‚Äď‚Ķ

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Open Letter To Express Scripts, Update

As some of you may know, my post, “Open Letter To Express Scripts” received the attention of Express Scripts social media department. ¬†They left a comment on that post with an email address stating they’d like to help. ¬†I want expecting much, and predictably, they lived up to my expectations.

Since they did not give me permission to share their correspondence with you, I will only share the final email I fired off to them. ¬†I have edited out the name of the company that is the insurer, as they are self-insured but use Express Scripts to administer the coverage. ¬†(I don’t think they deserve the bad-publicity, as they are probably unaware of the decisions being made on their behalf.) ¬†I have also edited for spelling and grammar, as I was really pissed off and didn’t proof the email before hitting “Send”.

So I present to you, my last email response to Express Scripts, so that you can infer what their “help” consisted of, and so you may understand how something like this could happen to you. ¬†Please spread the word about the dangers of managed care based on corporate interests.

Yes, I didn’t expect any help.

You can believe there will be an appeal.   Just because my provider has resorted to a lower dose as a POSSIBLE way to mitigate the damage Gabapentin will cause to my already low blood counts, does not mean it is the best course of action.

This decision actually costs the insurer money (since (company) is self-insured and you and UHC only administer their plans) because (company) will have to pay for the additional monitoring required, as well as the Neupogen shots should I fall into the Neutropenic range.

Furthermore, once this medicine at this dose proves to be ineffective, (company) will STILL end up paying for the Lyrica (an almost certain inevitability), & the only thing that is gained is more suffering on my part in the mean time, as well as possible danger to my health.

The bottom line here, is that my doctor prescribed this medication for me, for a REASON.

I am beyond frustrated at this point.  You better believe there will be an appeal.

Please do not contact me again.

I will continue to share my opinion of this decision and your company, until everybody knows that we are living under corporate managed care and their doctor’s decisions are being overridden by the wishes of shareholders.

How do you sleep at night?

The Twitter Incident

If you are a regular follower of my blog-type-thing (God, why would you do that to yourself?), then you may have noticed a few changes.  The first, would be the obvious redesign (I was using a 5 year-old theme).  The second would be that I am displaying my actual name, instead of the pseudonym I have been using since my last blog.  The decision to use my real name was agonizing for me, & may put me at great peril.  Before I explain why, there are a few key points you must know:

1.  My politics are generally a little to the left.

2.  I support responsible gun ownership.

3.  I have a difficult time keeping my mouth shut.

4.  I despise zealotry of any kind.

Okay, now that you know this about me, I can tell you about this Summer.

I had a Twitter account, with a few followers. ¬†Nothing huge, but enough to have considerable discussions. ¬†A group in my state was gathering signatures for a ballot initiative that would require background checks to be conducted before permanent private party transfers of firearms. ¬†That sounded reasonable enough to me, but since so many reasonable sounding laws become so completely unreasonable, & because there was such a vocal opposition to the measure, I thought I’d ask what the objections were.

And so I started off a reasonable discussion with one of the more intelligent sounding opponents of the measure.  And honestly, the objections he had did make some sense.  The draft was poorly worded, specifically being very vague.  He was concerned an anti-gun judge would interpret it poorly and basically take away the right to lend his friends and family his guns to shoot anywhere but state approved ranges.  Fair argument.

I countered that if the judge was anti-gun, that judge would still likely interpret that portion broadly enough to include private property or public lands approved for shooting or hunting, so as to not risk the entire law being thrown out as unconstitutional. Civil discussion so far.

I was pleased, as I was very interested in the perspective of the other side.

But then his friends joined in.

“This is just a first step to a gun registry, so they can know where to go when they want to confiscate our guns!” said one.

“The government doesn’t need a registry, all they need to do is look at your Twitter pics of you and your open carry buddies and find you that way. ¬†Or they could just look at your NRA window stickers on your truck if they really wanted to,” I retorted.

“The government and Obama wants to take our guns! ¬†The Bundy Ranch incident proved that armed Americans can still stand up to a tyrannical government!” another added.

“The Bundy Ranch incident proved that the government didn’t want a PR disaster the likes of Waco again. ¬†The government isn’t scared of the little “militia”. ¬†The killing of those people just wasn’t worth the land to seize. ¬†They’ll wait until he dies and take it then. ¬†If the government really wanted to win that fight, they could. ¬†They’d declare this “militia” domestic terrorists and a drone would take them out before they could even lift their AR-15s.”

“Posse Comitatus. ¬†The military can’t be used against civilians,” another piled on.

“The Patriot Act, essentially nullifies that in cases of terrorist activity and/or threats to National Security,” I responded.

And then it got ugly.

“Fucking lib-tards, love to hide behind their drones,” another one said.

I’d been baited.

At this point, I should have politely ended the conversation and agreed to disagree, but I didn’t. ¬†I took the bait. ¬†And I said…

“No. ¬†If I killed you, I’d stab you, so I could look you in the eyes as your life bleeds out in front of me.”

What in the actual fuck did I just say?  I instantly knew I fucked up.

If you know Twitter, you know there is a retweet feature, and in that feature, there is a Quote feature, that allows you to edit the quote before retweeting the tweet. ¬†And they did. “WHEN I KILL you, I’ll stab you, so I CAN look you in the eyes as your life bleeds out in front of me.”

That, plus a million¬†hastags about gun rights was retweeted too, as if I’d said it.

Then a follow up tweet with that screenshot and the explanation of another example of a crazy anti-gun nut. And then came the death threats. ¬†Asking what my mom (using her name, since we followed each other, wasn’t hard to figure out) would think, & my location (because I often tweeted pictures of the beautiful, iconic views around here).

And so I deactivated my Twitter for a few days.  When I reactivated, I kept the same followers, just changed my display name and profile picture. They were waiting for me.  They immediately noticed I was back, and the threats, complete with my real name started right back up again.

So I deactivated once more, but not before I fired one more shot (so to speak).

One of the more vocal gun zealots had his actual name on his Twitter.  So I read his tweets to establish where he lived.  Then I went to Facebook, and found a page that seemed to fit.  Same name, same place.  Belonging to certain groups.  I was fairly certain I had my twitter tough-guy.

And on his Facebook profile, a picture of his college aged son, along with the college he attended.  Shared publicly.

So I copied the picture, and sent out one final tweet, direct to the toughest of the tough guys with the picture, complete with their hastags.¬† It said, “I’m leaving now, but say hi to (son’s name) at (college name), unless I see him first.” ¬†(I told you I couldn’t keep my mouth shut.) ¬†Then I waited 12 hours for a response that never came. ¬†I deactivated my Twitter for good, and tightened my privacy online everywhere.

But you can’t live in fear forever, even if it is in fear of armed zealots.

Crowdfucking

No, this post is not about group sex.  It is about a blogger.  Or, rather, a beggar.  You know the type.  They follow your blog on the day they post some decent content.  In fact, up to that point, most of their content is made up of stories, or poetry, or something contributing to the world.  And little do you know, on that day they likely initiated the next step of their plan, by following hundreds or thousands of blogs in the hopes their blog will be followed back.

And since you always check out the blogs of people who follow you, and the posts you see are of some value, you make the fateful decision of hitting that Follow button.  You are always looking for content that adds something, so why not?

And so it begins…

You check the “Blogs I Follow” page in your Reader, and suddenly it is littered with posts from this one blog. ¬†Multiple times a day. ¬†Sometimes every hour. ¬†And each post has a similar title. ¬†Something like, “Almost There”, or, “We Can Do It”. ¬†Out of curiosity, you check one of the posts and read a plea for money to fund the publishing of his latest book.

And you think, “That’s okay, if his readers want to help him publish, no harm in asking once every so often.” ¬†And so you click the next one, hoping for some original content. ¬†Nope, same thing. ¬†And you click down, and down, and down again in a vain search for something of value. ¬†And worse still, the other blogs you follow are now buried under a heaping pile of crowdfunding requests. ¬†This guy has become the fictional Nigerian Prince for your blog reader.

“Well, I’ll just give it a day or two. ¬†Maybe he’s just really excited.”

And the next day, there is a post of what appears to be actual content. ¬†But alas, it is just a quick reblog of a two line quote you don’t yet realize is not because he found the quote to be particularly meaningful, but just to keep you on the line. ¬†So you keep following. ¬†You scroll past his reblog and enjoy the original content or the meaningful reblogs of the bloggers who contribute.

And the next day, the pleas for your money are back.  Sometimes every few minutes!  This guy is worse than the awful ASPCA commercials showing you abused animals trying to guilt you into donating to them during a South Park episode!  (As an aside, I am an animal lover, and supported animal charities whenever I had extra funds.  I find that tactic appalling and liken it to showing abused children to help fund your local CPS.)

You decide to give him a week to possibly realize how annoying he is being. ¬†You debate with yourself over whether or not you should comment on one of the posts to suggest ways of asking his supporters for help without being so spammy. ¬†Perhaps linking to a crowdfunding site at the bottom of each post of worthwhile content with a tiny blurb like, “If you liked this post and my writing, please support my project if you can.” ¬†But you decide against it because, “Who the hell are you to tell someone how to run their blog.”

You have finally decided to unfollow their blog, but are still somewhat hesitant because that original content they once posted was interesting enough to follow them in the first place.

And as you hit unfollow you realize that the blogger is not a blogger at all.  He is a marketer.  He has chosen the wrong profession.  He will likely hit his goal to publish his writing, but it will be devoid of any worthwhile content, unless it is merely a collection of the few pieces of material he posted on his blog, in order to bait people in.

The media touts crowdfunding as this great way for people to see the things they want done.  In some cases, this is correct.  Sometimes there are artificial barriers to worthwhile projects making it to the masses.  But, I think, more often than not, if something is good enough to be seen, and someone is driven enough to make that happen, they can do it without begging for money.  Especially in writing where it is so easy and cheap to self-publish.  If this guy had good content, and self-published, he could use his marketing tricks to sell his books instead of begging for money to get them started.

I write to express myself. ¬†One day, if I feel I’ve developed my voice and gotten a cursory understanding of the craft, I’ll write my story, I’ll rewrite my story, I’ll retire it again, I’ll edit that rewrite, I’ll look for feedback, and, if I determine it is good, I’ll look to have it published or publish myself.

What I will not do, is spam anyone I come across and beg them for money.

And so now it is my turn to beg. ¬†If you follow this type of person, please do not give in to their tactics. ¬†They wouldn’t persist if it didn’t work.

The Hostage Situation

It wasn’t so much raining, as it was misting. ¬†The tiny droplets against the darkening sky created an eerie fog-effect. ¬†As I stared out the window, I thought that it looked like the kind of evening that would start off a cliched mystery or horror story.

I was really enjoying the way the light breeze and changing air currents were visible thanks to the moisture enveloping the world.  For one of the few times in my memory, there was nothing running through my mind.  There was no stress, just quiet enjoyment of the scene unfolding.

But that was all about to change.

Judging by the light, I’d say it was just past 6 when my generic ringtone started to emanate from the speaker on my phone. ¬†Being the generic ringtone, I was ready to ignore the call since anyone I wanted to talk to had their own ringtone; but curiosity got the better of me and I checked the screen.

I will never stop regretting that decision.

The name on the screen showed as Unknown, but the number had a 202 area code.  Having worked in telecom, I knew that area code was assigned to Washington, D.C.  But having worked in technical support I also knew of services like Google Voice, which allow you to pick just about any number not taken.

“Probably a bill collector or telemarketer,” I figured.

Still, as it was getting too dark outside to continue to enjoy my weather meditation, I decided to answer the phone for a little fun.

It would be the second bad decision that day.

“Yellow!” I answered.

“Do not disconnect this call. ¬†We have your cats. ¬†If you want to see them again, you will do everything exactly as we say. ¬†Do you understand?” spoke the electronically disguised voice at the other end of the line.

“Hahaha, Paul. ¬†My cats? ¬†You couldn’t do better?”

“This is not Paul. ¬†If you doubt our seriousness, just call your cats.”

“Jesus Paul, nice try. ¬†Everyone knows cats don’t come when you call them!” ¬†I laughed.

“This isn’t fucking Paul!” screamed the agitated computerized voice, “Go look for them, or open a can of fucking tuna or something! ¬†Oh wait, I have an idea…”

The phone buzzed and lit up.  I took the phone away from my ear to look at the screen.  I had a new picture message.  It was my cats, in a cat carrier, in what I would later learn was the back of a van.

I put the phone back to my ear.

“Did you get the picture? ¬†My service is a little spotty,” said the voice.

“I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my cats go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you*,” I said.

“Nice try, Liam,” replied the voice.

“Shit! ¬†You better not hurt them!” I shouted.

“Hurt cats?” the stunned voice asked, “What kind of monsters do you think we are?”

“The kind of monsters that would take someone’s cats!” I replied.

“Oh, well I guess there is that, but we’d never hurt them. ¬†We’ll just keep them for ourselves.”

“Bastards! ¬†Okay, what do you want?”

The voice instructed me to go out to the street and look for a white, windowless van.  I was to enter on the passenger side and sit up front next to the driver.  I was told that if I called the police or was followed, the van would drive away with my beloved cats, never to be seen again.  

I did as instructed.  When I entered the van, I asked to see my cats to make sure they were okay.

“Turn around,” said the impeccably well-dressed (aside from the ski mask) driver.

So I looked into the back of the van and saw my cats, doing just fine in the carrier, guarded by another very well-dressed (again, except for the ski-mask) man.

“I can’t overpower both of them,” I thought to myself.

The driver told me to buckle my seatbelt, and to try my best to enjoy the long drive.

“Where are you taking me?” I demanded.

“Washington, D.C.” replied the driver, “We have a job for you to do. ¬†If you help us, you’ll get your cats back when it’s over.”

“When the job is over, I get my cats back, and go back to my life?”

“No, the election,” laughed the suddenly familiar voice.

And that is how I came to work for Romney for America in 2016.

*This bit of dialogue is obviously not my own content, but is the speech from the Motion Picture “Taken”, except substituting the word “cats” for “daughter”, hence the “Nice try, Liam” line after, genius.

Lies

Anyone with a Facebook account has no doubt seen a variation of a status, one that has been passed around and slightly altered so many times, it can not be attributed. ¬†The status basically says something along the lines of, “We all wish for a bigger house, a new car, to be thinner, etc… But a cancer patient has only one wish, to beat cancer.” ¬†Then it goes on about how X% of people won’t repost this (usually 97 on these stupid things) but I know my friends are the 3% that will. ¬†Then it tells you to repost in honor of someone who died of cancer or is currently fighting it.

This post popped up on my feed last night and made me so upset, I couldn’t get back to sleep. ¬†Beyond exploiting cancer patients to make your post spread further, it is a flat-out lie. ¬†Who does the original author of this garbage think he/she is? ¬†How dare anyone speak for the wishes of all cancer patients.

When I was diagnosed, all through treatment, during the complications, and now living in the aftermath I can definitely say that beating cancer has been my number one wish. ¬†But my only wish? ¬†Hell no. ¬†I wouldn’t mind more money, a new car, a vacation to Ireland, a nice house, and no debt. ¬†I wish for my family and friends to be healthy and happy. ¬†I wish for people to be able to quit being so stupid as to believe crap like that post. ¬†Regular wishes don’t go away just because you have cancer, they may just be shifted in order of priority. ¬†Which brings me to widely accepted lie

#1.  Cancer patients become cancer.

Once you let people know you have cancer, suddenly all they want to talk about is your cancer. ¬†Or other people’s cancers. ¬†Or the bullshit things you can do to cure cancer. ¬†Or what you did or didn’t do to get cancer. ¬†No more do they acknowledge your other non-cancer related life, which until you die, does go on. ¬†Speaking of death

#2. ¬†Survivors are “brave” or “fighters”.

Not so fast, Speedy. ¬†Go up to a loved one of someone who just died of cancer and try telling them that the person they just lost wasn’t brave enough or didn’t fight hard enough. ¬†If you survive the beating they give you, you might realize how saying the survivors are brave or are fighters is essentially saying those who didn’t make it aren’t. ¬†Do you see how this might be a bad thing? ¬†The only fighting required is sticking with the treatment prescribed and continuing to try to breathe when it isn’t easy. ¬†And bravery? ¬†No, not really. ¬†Bravery would be not fighting the cancer. ¬†The terminal patients who make the decision to die with dignity, they are the brave ones. ¬†It is actually the fear of dying at the particular time that causes most cancer patients to continue treatment (fight). ¬†I say most cancer patients because

#3.  Cancer is a terrible disease.

Wrong again. ¬†Cancer is a group of diseases. ¬†The symptoms, prognosises, lasting effects, survivability, and treatments vary widely. ¬†Solid tumor cancers, blood cancers, chemotherapy, radiation, relapse rates, they are so different they really shouldn’t even be mentioned to anyone with a different type. ¬†The only thing cancers share are messed up cells. ¬†And about being messed up

#4.  Cancer patients all look like bald, walking skeletons.

Despite the Hollywood depictions, not all cancer patients lose their hair. ¬†Because there are different treatments, different drugs, different doses, and just people being different and therefore responding to things differently, not everyone undergoing treatment for cancer looks like a bald, emaciated invalid. ¬†Many cancer patients actually gain weight from either water retention or the effects of steroids. ¬†Since we’re on the subject of steroids

#5.  The cancer is gone, things go back to normal.

For some, perhaps. ¬†I’ve had no evidence of cancer since August of 2012. ¬†However, in destroying the cancer my bone marrow was also destroyed requiring a transplant that I got in January of 2013. ¬†The lasting effects are too much to list, but some of the major ones are PTSD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, loss of hearing, cataracts (from those steroids), adrenal insufficiency (also from steroids), liver damage, kidney damage, fatigue, GI damage, low blood counts, no B cells, and so much more. ¬†As recently as August of last year I was intubated in the ICU undergoing emergency surgery. ¬†And I was feeling better in the days just before that than I am today. ¬†You may not become cancer, but for many, it will always be a part of you. ¬†Do you know what won’t always be a part of you?

#6.  People you thought would, will be there for you.

I really learned who my friends weren’t in these last few years. ¬†Others have stepped up and shown just how good of friends they can be. ¬†When I think about the people I thought were some of my best friends now, I can’t help but feel really let down. ¬†But I have quality friends now, and I’m also very lucky because

#7.  Cancer is romantic.

Fuck you, Hollywood. ¬†I have known way too many people who were abandoned by their significant others, or their spouses (the ones who said, “In sickness and in health”) because the going got rough, or their sex life suffered. ¬†I’m very lucky, my wife has been so supportive and strong. ¬†She’s been by my side and I am so lucky. ¬†It really doesn’t usually work out that way.

As survivors, some of us perpetuate these lies. ¬†I myself often use the “I beat cancer” line when trying to show how I’m not afraid of something else (like I lost my social anxiety and my fear of heights) or as some sort of evidence of how strong I am. ¬†We don’t do it on purpose, the mind tricks you into believing that if you survived your own body attacking you, you can survive anything else. ¬†(But then you collapse on the floor in a puddle of tears if you think you might be getting sick again.)

Not that we don’t deserve some credit. ¬†I worked my ass off in physical therapy to be able to walk and regain my balance. ¬†I’ve been utilizing the tiny amounts of energy I get to build strength. ¬†I didn’t down overdoses of pain pills when I thought it was too much and actually would have welcomed death. ¬†I didn’t stop breathing when my lungs were filled with fluid and it hurt so bad.

But if you believe that the grey faced people I saw at the clinic yesterday, who are obviously near the end of a battle they can’t win, aren’t just as brave or didn’t fight just as hard, and that I just wasn’t a bit luckier, then you should get your head examined. ¬†It might be cancer.

Controversial

I’ve been trying really hard to avoid bringing up this topic. ¬†I’ve tried to ignore it. ¬†I’ve distanced myself from any one who I thought might want to talk about it. ¬†I’ve kept away from any news sources that may be covering it. ¬†I’ve basically been hiding under my pillow hoping the 300 lb gorilla in the room would just get bored and leave. ¬†But it hasn’t. ¬†Despite all my attempts at avoidance, despite trying so desperately to distract away from it, it just continues to follow me. ¬†And so, I feel it is finally time that I share my thoughts on the matter. ¬†I’m so sorry to offend anyone. ¬†To my loyal reader(s), if you feel you can no longer enjoy my posts (although I still find it hard to believe you ever did), I will understand. ¬†For those who actually Followed my blog-type-thing (did you click the wrong button?), I will not hold you in a negative light if you were to unfollow after reading what I have to say about this.

For my opinion, and the reasoning I will offer for that opinion likely flies in the face of all that you hold to be moral and right.  It will likely go against all of the traditional values.  It will certainly cause you to question my sanity.  It may even make you believe in true evil.

I’m not proud of the opinion I will be offering to you. ¬†Yet, there is no other opinion on this vital subject that I could rationally arrive at. ¬†I don’t expect to convert you to my way of thinking, I just merely feel the need to speak up for what I believe. ¬†I’m fully prepared for the persecution I am likely to endure as a result.

For society has always attacked those who spoke out against its accepted injustices.  History is rife with examples of the righteous meeting horrendous ends at the hands of the masses who would later come to realize the error of their ways.  Great men and women who spoke the truth before the people were ready to hear it.  Heroes, who were treated as villains, just because they sought to teach.

I’m no hero, however. ¬†If I were, I wouldn’t have kept silent for so long on a matter of such importance. ¬†I would not have let my fear keep me from using my voice. ¬†I would have ignored the advice of my staff, the focus groups, and the pollsters, and spoken out, even at the expense of my standing. ¬†No, I’m no hero. ¬†I’m just an ordinary man who can remain silent no longer.

For as the great John Johnson Johnston once said, “It is only after the laryngitis is cured, that our voices find their strength.” ¬†Well, I can assure you, my laryngitis is no more, and I am ready to shout! ¬†I will speak my words until my voice gives out, or until my vocal chords develop polyps that have to be surgically removed, and my vocal chords rested until they fully heal, and then I will speak out once again!

Silence on this issue may be the safe move, but it is time to face the danger.  For there is no greater danger than never taking a risk.

I want my loved ones to know, should I fall to those who wish to keep me quiet, that I stood in the face of my oppressors, and spoke out.  Not for me, but for them.  For my loved ones, for your loved ones, and yes, even for you.  Even as you try to keep me quiet, I will speak for you, until I can speak no more.

The time for self-censorship, the time for political correctness, the time for carefully prepared remarks put before focus groups so as not to offend, has passed. ¬†For if you obscure the message in such a way as to not upset anyone, you lose the message. ¬†You can’t please all of the people all of the time. ¬†You have to break a few eggs if you want to make an omelet. ¬†You have to use a few cliches if you want to write a blog-type-thing.

And so I ask you to prepare yourself as I boldly say what so desperately needs to be said. ¬†I ask that you try to keep an open mind, though I do not expect it. ¬†But perhaps one day, after I have suffered for my views and the world has moved forward, your children, or your children’s children will find that one man, one ordinary man, extraordinarily raised his voice in the face of overwhelming opposition. ¬†And though his views were near universally ridiculed, they will know then that he dared to speak the truth. ¬†And though his words fell on deaf ears, a seed was planted.

So I may not change any minds.  I may not even be heard at all.  Sharing this opinion, this truth, with you may even put me at great peril.  But it must be spoken, it must be shared.  If for nothing else, than to provide an example for others, that find themselves on the wrong side of public opinion, but in the right of their convictions.

For we only have the freedom to speak if we have the courage to act on that freedom.  No document, no amendment, no right can exist if it goes unused.

And so, I can hesitate no longer.  I have waited already too long.  The issue can be ignored no longer.  There will be no more delays.  There will be no more stalling.

So today, January 26th, in the year 2015, I announce to you the truth I feel in my heart, the opinion I have on this vital issue, unpopular though it may be, I say unto you, and the world…that I like pizza, because I think it tastes good.