Ignorance Is No Joke

The age of social media has given us a new host for the pathogens commonly referred to as memes. Quite often these are innocuous, humorous quips that could lighten anyone's day. Unfortunately, they are also often misleading, false, and destructive. Many lie, and some, like the one that brought me to write this post, celebrate ignorance in a way that saddens me.

The specific meme that I am referencing implies that learning algebra was a waste of time. It is often posted with some comment that seems to indicate algebra is nothing more than a pointless punishment thrust upon poor school children for no other reason other than to satisfy the blood lust of an evil teacher.

Algebra meme
Algebra meme

Why does this upset me?

It upsets me because it not only validates ignorance, but it encourages it, it legitimizes the desire for people to not try learning it (imagine a kid at school seeing this, what is it teaching them about perseverance and education?).  I get it; if you struggled with algebra, it's comforting to laugh it off as useless anyway, but this is short-sighted. Even in jest, sharing this sentiment is damaging. This comfort blanket for you might mean an under-achieved potential for your child, or someone else's. Many future and current careers use and build upon the foundations laid by algebra in school (you think Facebook was created by people who did not get algebra?). Let's not do a disservice to the next generation by perpetuating and legitimizing ignorance just so we can feel more comfortable with our own. We all use the principles of algebra, whether we recognise it or not. Reworking a recipe for four people so that it will feed two, splitting a bill in a restaurant, or working out a budget, we use algebra. It may not look like algebra because we rarely write down some equation and then tell us to "solve for X", but it is algebra all the same.

Of course, it is not just anti-algebra sentiment that is being spread by misleading or seemingly innocuous memes. There are far more egregious examples, like those that perpetuate the myths that vaccinations cause Autism or harm more people than they help. These memes have the potentially deadly effect of reducing herd immunity and putting our most vulnerable individuals at risk; those that cannot be vaccinated at all.

Memes are powerful and yet so easy to spread. Just as with viruses that affect our physiology, some memes can be incredibly damaging, like a virus to the larger organism of society. My challenge to everyone is to think before sharing a meme, to fact check, to try to ensure a damaging myth or lie is not being perpetuated, perhaps share more positive memes that encourage rather than discourage. I know that some will think I am being far too serious and want to assert that "it's just a joke", but that does not change the way I feel, nor does it change the impact that "joke" has on others. I am not asking anyone to lose their sense of humour, just to think twice and share memes responsibly. Think about who might see a meme you share, what it might mean to them, and what they might learn from it.

Thanks for reading. Learn algebra.

Pie and Pirates

Just as with Hell and Hot Chocolate, this was my entry in a short story contest held among the denizens of http://bbs.chrismoore.com (affectionately known to the Mooreons that frequent it as The Boardello).  The challenge was to write a story with the title Pie and Pirates. It's not the best thing I ever wrote, hastily crafted between CounterStrike:Source games, but it did earn me some gel pirates to stick to the window of my apartment.

Pie and Pirates

by Jeff Yates

“Give me the pie and no one gets hurt!” I shouted so that everyone in the tavern could hear. “Argh!” I added, remembering that I was a pirate and it was kind of a rule.

The warning shot I’d fired a few moments earlier, killing Bearded Bill’s parrot and wounding Bearded Bill (who wasn’t actually bearded or named Bill due to him being only 7 years old and named Tarquin), had already silenced the room, making shouting pretty redundant, but it too was kind of a rule.

“Come on, come on! Avast with the pie already! Argh!” said Bearded Bill (still without a beard), who then turned to me and whispered, “I can’t believe you shot Spongebob.”

“Sorry, matey,” I said, eyeing the corpse of his dead beloved as it lay in a feathered heap on the floor. “I never was very good with a pistol, I’m more of a swashbuckler, myself. We’ll get you another parrot.” I ruffled his hair.

“I can’t believe you shot me,” he continued with surprise, as though he’d forgotten all about it until the blood reminded him.

“I said I was sorry! Focus on the matter at hand?” I was hungry and had no time for Bill’s whinging. I turned back to the room and eyed the occupants with suspicion just in case they were getting any bright ideas. “Avast, ye landlubbers! Get the pie or the parrot won’t be the only one to be meeting his maker! Argh!”

Bill, with only a year at sea, was quite naive in the ways of the pirate. I, however, had been at sea for over two years now and at 9, had seen all the world had to see. I was a ruthless killer. A highwayman of the high seas. The scourge of every…

“Excuse me!” said the tavern keeper from the back of the room, “Number 65?”

Bill checked our ticket. “That’s us!” he called back. I elbowed his ribs and raised my eyebrows. “Oh right, Argh!”

As we walked out of the tavern — me carrying the pie, Bill carrying a dead parrot and nursing his wounded shoulder — the keeper shouted after us, “See you next week, boys!”

We both waved behind us and headed for home.

* * *

It took us fifteen minutes or more to trek back to the ship, but once there, we were greeted with growls and licks from the scurvy dogs aboard.

“Good to see you, mateys!” said Bill to the old seadogs.

“Avast! Ye scurvy dogs. Argh!” I added, “And now for the feast! Argh!”

“Argh!” said Bill.

We both sat down on deck and reached for the pie, eagerly anticipating its taste.

“I hope you two aren’t eating that pie!” shouted Captain Mum.

“Aw, mum!” we whined in unison, “We’re playing pirates!”

“I’ll give you pirates! Bring that pie inside before the dogs get it!”

And so, Bearded Bill and One-Eyed Jack, heads hung in shame, walked the plank into the kitchen and sat down for tea.


Every now and then I have extremely vivid dreams that feel so real, I've been known to make a phone call afterwards to check on someone. I'm not usually superstitious, but I get freaked out once in a while. Anyway, I thought it might be amusing to write some of them down so we can see just how messed up my head is at night.

I'll begin with Felicity.

One night I woke up at about 4 or 5 AM, a cold sweat had soaked my pillow and I was arrested with abject terror of whatever might be lurking in the darkness on the other side of the bed sheets. The rational part of me knew already — some lazily strewn clothing, bedroom furniture, and our cats — but the part of me that had been terrified by hallucinations in my sleep was certain something more sinister awaited. The terror was reaffiremd by a hundred or more memories of being terrified in similar situations as a child.

I turned on the light. I knew it would wake Chrissy, but I needed to properly wake up and recover.

"What's wrong?" she yawned.

"A bad dream; a nightmare. That's all," I said.

"Oh, I'm sorry," she said, "what was it about?"

Chrissy has learned to ask for details ever since the first occasion I had a nightmare while she was nearby. That had been in a lovely hotel in Reno around the first  time I met her dad. It was a particularly vivid nightmare to the point I called my parents to quiz them about the quality of the electrical system in their house. However, we'll leave that piece of insanity for another time, back to Felicity.

"It was messed up," I said, "it was a CCTV screen showing my grandma's old bedroom, but decorated as it is now; as it was when we stayed there this summer. The CCTV camera seemed to be somewhere above the window, zoomed in on the top half of the bed, towards the headboard. There was a little girl lying there on the left of the bed. Maybe 6 or 8 years old? She wore pretty floral dress, mostly white with small pink roses or something and a some sort of ribbon as a belt, white socks that stopped an inch or so below the knee, and patent leather shoes with a shiny buckle. Her hair was long and light brown, mousy, maybe dirty blonde, something like that. I had the feeling she had blue eyes but they were closed the whole time. Her arms were by her side, I think, they could have been clutched at her waist. Maybe both. She was dead. It felt as though she was dead."

"That's fucked up," said Chrissy, making sure I was completely aware of what I already knew.

"Right? I don't know when, but at some point in the dream, it stopped being CCTV and we were there in the room. You were there, next to her, or someone that I felt was you; I don't recall seeing you. The weirdest thing is, I knew her name was Felicity. I didn't recognise her, I don't recall anyone in the dream saying it, but I knew."

I paused. Thinking about the completely strange but vivid dream and then said, "Who the fuck is Felicity?"

We both chatted a while, which turned into laughter as we quizzed one another, "Who the fuck is Felicity?" Eventually, I calmed down enough to drift back to sleep and dream of something less disturbing.

We still don't know who Felicity is1 or why I would have dreamed of someone called Felicity at all. I have only ever known one Felicity in my life – a girl with whom I went to primary school. Memories of her would fit the right age range, but it didn't seem like her and I had not even had a conversation about her in over 20 years. For now and maybe hopefully always, this remains a creepy mystery, but just in case, I leave you with that burning question; who the fuck is Felicity?

  1. perhaps was 

I Have An Announcement To Make

This is going to come as a shock to friends and family alike, so please, take a seat. I have to tell you that Chrissy and I are, as of Friday, the proud parents of a child. One imaginary, completely made-up, sexless, physically unmanifested and nameless child.

As with most fake children, the conception, gestation and birth occurred within moments of one another. And it is all my fault (typical that I get the blame, huh, gents?).

If you would be so kind as to remain seated, I will explain myself (I apologise if this gets a bit graphic as I'm going to be honest about the details which may include cussing, just be grateful I did not video the birth, I certainly am).

A Typical Friday Morning

It all happened on Friday morning when I took my car for a scheduled service. The service greeter guy (official title, I believe) greeted me by name, having remembered me from my last service six months ago when he had kindly arranged for important work to be done under warranty1. He proceeded to fill out paperwork and inspect the car.

The car had not done many miles since the last service, so he wanted to double check if the tyres needed rotating (tire, as he said it, because he is American and therefore speaks in different spellings). From a quick check of the tread, he decided that only the right-side tyres needed rotating "to keep my kids safe". And this is where I made my first mistake. I started thinking.

He thinks we have kids. Shit. Do we? I don't know. Of course we don't, how don't you know? Oh fuck. What do I do? Correct him. Correct him! Shit, too late. We've moved on. Now it will just be weird. Nevermind.

So, I did not correct him. In my defense, it did feel a bit asinine to point that out. After all, he was really just saying he wanted people in my car to be safe and that is a nice thing, so I let the small inaccuracy of "kids" slip by, leaving Service Greeter Guy to continue in his belief that I had kids. Instead, I had the bright idea to change the subject.

ME: "I'm probably going to get a new car soon."

SGG: "Well, how many kids have you got?"

What?! Clearly Service Greeter Guy did not know the rules of changing the subject.

“At first sign of crisis, the ignorant don’t panic because they don’t know what’s going on, and then later they panic precisely because they don’t know what’s going on.

At this point my subconscious started to determine what my next move should be in this battle of wits. The sane part of me said I should come clean and tell him we did not have any kids, but that is too much like normal. I do not do normal very well.

Shit! He asked how many kids we have. Are we supposed to have kids? Is it wrong not to have any kids? Fuck. Fuck. FUCK! We have…er…shit. Don't hesitate. Now he looks puzzled, "Why doesn't he know how many kids he has?" Why are you not speaking?

ME: "It depends."

It depends?! Depends on what? How many I've kidnapped on a given day? What the fuck?

I had somehow determined that this hole was far from deep enough and started furiously digging. Service Greeter Guy looked confused and why would he not? I was confused and panicking.

SGG: "No, just you and your wife."

Fortunately for me, while I was panicking, Service Greeter Guy appeared to have been searching for a rational reason why the strange British man might say "It depends" to such a straightforward question. I can only assume he had decided that we ferry local kids around for some after school club or some equally normal activity where the number of kids in my car might vary. Of course, he was not going to get off so lightly. Tossing aside this opportunity to set everything straight, take the hit of embarrassment and move on, I kept digging.

ME: "One."

All of a sudden and there it was, our imaginary child, fresh from the womb of insanity, waiting to be saved by the tyre rotation that had conceived it.

Service Greeter Guy continued with his day, unaware that I had lied to him for no reason whatsoever other than the growing panic inside me, feeling like I might be judged for not having children. While he calmly tapped at keys and got me a ride to work, I calmly considered the impact of my new ward's inexistence.

One? We have one? FUCK! Now I have to have at least one kid for the rest of my days coming here to fix my car. Fuck. Will he remember? Yes, he'll remember! He remembered your fucking name when you drove in this morning from six months ago. Arse. Can I borrow a kid?

"Parenthood always comes as a shock. Postpartum blues? Postpartum panic is more like it. We set out to have a baby; what we get is a total takeover of our lives."3

If it were not for a chat with my wife later in the day, our happy news of  September 28th, 2012 may have been known only to me. However, it was her fake kid too, so I wanted to share with her the overwhelming burden of parenthood. Of course, she happily wanted me to share it with everyone, which is why I have written it down here for all to revel in my weirdity.

If you want to send birthday cards, gifts (no obligation, but it loves beer) or just a comment, have at it. Perhaps you even have ideas on what we can do with our new child. Name it? Give it a sibling? Kill it? Please share.

  1. I do know Service Greeter Guy's name, I'm just choosing to omit it. 

  2. Jarod Kintz, At even one penny, this book would be overpriced. In fact, free is too expensive, because you'd still waste time by reading it. 

  3. Polly Berrien Berends 

Hell and Hot Chocolate

This was my entry in a short story contest held among the denizens of http://bbs.chrismoore.com (affectionately known to the Mooreons that frequent it as The Boardello).  The challenge was to write a story with the title Hell and Hot Chocolate. I won a mug for this. I love that mug.

Hell and Hot Chocolate

by Jeff Yates

It was cold outside and the skies looked ominous, not that I knew what ominous meant at the time, I was only eight.  I probably would have said the skies looked scary back then or maybe, in an attempt to get the right word, called them odorous.  That would've been wrong though, they weren't odorous at all (at least not from this distance), just ominous.  Mum, fearing for the well-being of her children as mothers often do, made sure we wore extra layers before bracing the winter morning.  My sister wore hiking socks, leg warmers and boots with a pink puffer jacket, pink scarf, pink mittens, and a pink bobble hat; her cheeks glowing red against the biting wind.  I wore two pairs of socks, my wellies, jeans, a vest, a t-shirt, a white school shirt, a wool jumper with a rabbit on the front knitted by my Gran, a scarf of random colours knitted by my Gran, a wool duffle coat, and a flat cap that my parents had bought me for my birthday after my Dad got fed up of me stealing his.  We each carried a satchel containing sandwiches, crayons, paper, and a flask of milky hot chocolate.   My sister was like candy floss from the local fairground and I was like a better looking British equivalent of Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone.

It was Sunday morning and my Mum had just dropped me and my sister at the bottom of the church steps.  They were eroded from wind and rain, cracked by freeze and thaw, and harboured frost-covered plants between their old stone blocks.  Their edges were worn smooth from centuries of churchgoers traipsing their way to and from christening, matins, communion, wedding, evensong and funeral services, Easter, harvest and Christmas celebrations, and Sunday School.  That was where we were heading, Sunday School.  Every Sunday morning after the communion service we would go to Sunday school where various volunteers under the guidance of the rector would impart to us the wisdom of the Bible whilst we made Easter cards or painted one of the Disciples.  Usually, we would have been at the service too but this morning my Mum had struggled to wake me and my Dad: me because I was lazy, my Dad because he was hung-over.  So, there we were, at the bottom of the church steps waving to our Mum as the last of the congregation left the church and Mum drove away.

My sister grabbed my arm and dragged me up the icy steps, "Come on, you mong.  Stop staring at the sky, we'll be late!"  She was ten and with her maturity came her sass.  She was a proper well-spoken little madam and I looked up to her even though we were starting to grow apart; me refusing to mature beyond my years and her racing for the finish line of retirement.  I was sure that within a year, she would be married with kids and I would still be pulling the legs off spiders and putting frogs in her bed (though no Nostradamus, some of my predictions did come true, much to my sister's irritation).

*   *   *

“Today, we are going to talk about Heaven and Hell.  Who can tell me what Heaven is?”

Miss Dickle was about eighteen or nineteen.  She was a member of the youth fellowship and she was hung up on God.  I think it had something to do with the bullying she got, or the boys thinking she was a dyke (I didn’t know what that meant, but they didn’t say it like it was a good thing so I guessed it was bad which my Mum confirmed when I called her one), or a bit of both, but whatever it was, my Dad had said she was bothering God for the wrong reasons.  I could not see any signs that God was bothered by her at all, but then I could not see any signs of God full-stop—other than the ones that hopeful believers had built, installed, or written on his behalf—so what did I know?

Bobby Jenkins raised his hand, “My Mum says that sitting on the washing machine during a full-spin cycle is heaven.”

“Yes, thank you, Bobby.  That isn’t quite what I was looking for.  Anyone else?” said Miss Dickle, making a note and slipping it into her pocket while Bobby shrugged like he had given it his best shot, “No?  Well, Heaven is where God lives.”

“But I thought this was God’s house?” said Angela Joyce.  The twenty-strong group of eight year old children nodded in agreement.

“Yes, it is, but God is everywhere.”  Miss Dickle was used to thinking fast.

“So Heaven is everywhere?” said Angela.

“No.  Heaven is where we go when we die, but only if we’ve been good.  Now, who can tell me what Hell is?”

Julie Brent raised her hand, pushing it as high as she could, using her other arm to prevent the first from falling off before she got to answer.

“Yes, Julie.”

“Hell is a really hot place with fire and lava and the Devil where people go when they’re naughty.”

Julie Brent was a know-it-all and she knew it.  I hated her.

“That’s very good, Julie.  To be exact, Hell is the eternal punishment for those who do not believe in Jesus Christ like we do.  The Devil, who is sometimes called Satan or Lucifer, used to be an angel in Heaven but he tried to fight God and was sent to Hell with a third of the angels who are now demons.  Hell is filled with the souls of the damned and if you do something naughty and you don’t say sorry, that’s where you end up.  The Devil roams the Earth looking for souls to devour, separating them from the spiritual light of God and condemning them to eternal damnation.  Temptation is often used by the Devil to lure the weak away from Jesus Christ and God.  So, when you are tempted to do something that you know you shouldn’t, remember what might happen to you.”

We all sat there in silence, too scared to look anywhere but straight at Miss Dickle, whose face looked deadly serious.  I was pretty sure that none of us fully understood everything she just said, but what we did understand was more than enough to petrify us.  I was horrified, even more so when Bobby shit himself and burst into tears; he was sat right next to my flask.

*   *   *

Mum came to collect us at 11:30.  There we were, standing in the slush at the bottom of the Church steps.  My sister was holding the advent candle she had made and grinning from ear to ear as if it was the best thing ever.  I was holding my flask of hot chocolate at arm’s length, unable to believe that Miss Dickle had washed if all off like she insisted.

On the drive home, my sister happily regaled the little bits of gossip she had overheard during her advent candle manufacturing class while I tried not to think about the implications of my “how to scare the shit out of at least one kid” class.   It wasn’t until we got home that Mum took me aside to ask why I appeared so upset (seems I had been sniffling a little on the way home).  So, I told her what happened, word for word, or at least as well as I could remember and when I was finished, she gave me a hug.

“So, you’re worried that you might go to Hell?”

“No,” I said.


“Well, I was, but then Bobby pooed on my hot choc’lit.”

“And that stopped you worrying?”

“Well, you always say it might be tempting to drink it before Miss Dickle finished talking but I shouldn’t.  But today I was going to, then Bobby pooed on it.  And now he’s going to Hell.”

“I don’t think that’s very nice, honey.  You can’t send someone to Hell just for pooing their pants.”

“But he didn’t say sorry and Miss Dickle said that if you don’t say sorry after you’ve done something naughty, you go to Hell.”

“Well, I don’t think Miss Dickle explained that very well.  How about I make you a fresh mug of hot chocolate and we’ll talk about this after dinner?”

“Ok,” I smiled and ran off to watch Bugs Bunny with my Dad.

*   *   *

It wasn’t until the following weekend when I returned to Sunday School, that I discovered Bobby had bigger things to worry about than Hell.  After all, why worry about where you’ll end up when you’re dead when you have to spend the rest of your life being called Bobby Poopants, Poobum Bobby, and Bobby Bobby Bumboy (although that last one didn’t really become popular until he came out during high school).  He never lived down the embarrassment of defecating to the point that it oozed from his shorts and I never ever used that flask again.  Angela Joyce became a hard-hitting journalist, probing politicians and celebrities with her unique style of questioning. Julie Brent got ordained and continued to have an answer for everything.  Miss Dickle got a theology degree and after many years as a missionary, she embraced her sexuality and moved in with Julie Brent.

As for me, well, that’s another story altogether.