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Teacher, Writer, Proofreader

Archive for the month “January, 2016”

Ersatz Inspiration


I had no idea what my niece was saying. I don’t mean I didn’t know the band she was talking about, or what semi-talented celebrity she thought was cute, or what oddball approach to a school subject she was discussing; I mean I honestly had no idea what she was saying. The individual words coming out of her mouth were English, but they were put together in a way that I did not recognize as discernible language. At this point I was genuinely afraid that I was, unequivocally, an adult.

I have had suspicions for some time. I recently realized I was more likely to attempt to sleep all night instead of stay up watching Monty Python films. I had taken to being concerned about my IRA instead of my GPA. (And in a related story, I have an IRA.) I have also caught myself recognizing the songs piped into the grocery store as I look at labels and compare prices instead of just buying something cheap and nacho-flavored.



A line from “The Breakfast Club” wafted through my mind: “when you grow up, your heart dies.” I’m not that pessimistic, so I let that one go. But I wondered if I should gear up for a mid-life crisis somewhere around the corner, and what it might look like if it shows up. I’ve already run with the bulls and swum with sharks, so my crisis should be a doozy.

As my contemplative nature kicked into overdrive, I realized every age group is isolated to the point of having almost no ability to generate meaningful dialogue with other age groups. This is likely everyone’s fault. I’m blessed to have grandparents still living; but I have no more real connection to my grandfather’s experience of being strafed by Luftwaffe fighter planes while fighting fascism any more than I have connection to young people’s needs to be precious, fragile, individual snowflakes for whom microaggressions are tantamount to being strafed by Luftwaffe fighter planes. And neither have need or desire, it seems, to foster a connection to my generation. I’m too old to be young, and too young to be middle-aged. This is definitely not a new phenomenon, just new to me.

With my newfound sense of wisdom, responsibility, and general adultiness; I thought it might just be my generation’s duty to try to bridge those seemingly unbridgable gaps between people who feel One Direction is the pinnacle of musical expression, and those who swear the best music stopped when Glenn Miller failed to land. (Well, failed to land in any way that would allow the music to continue.)

I’ve painted myself into quite a corner with this brush of responsibility. I’m not sure I’ve had the proper education or preparation for such an undertaking. It seems like a very difficult bridge to build. Then I remembered that my generation is most known for sitting in coffee shops being professional slackers. I also remembered that buying a shiny, fast car is the time-honored response to being faced with the unwanted epiphany of mortality. I’ve always seen myself as a Mercedes SL kinda guy …

~ Justin Cunningham is an over-educated, under-employed lovable rogue with incurable wanderlust. He lives in Arizona with his lovely wife, but spends an inordinate amount of time daydreaming about that place where the horizon meets the term “saudade”. He is also completely aware of how ridiculous all of this sounds.


Bye, Tinder, I’m Swiped Out!

No more swiping for me, thanks.

Profile deleted. App uninstalled. Done.

Too time-consuming.

Too many scammers, and by the way, I’ve added screen shots of the latest and final encounters for your entertainment. Take a second to read their captivating bios and text messages.

REMEMBER: These photos have been snatched and attached to fake profiles.





How do I know that the third profile is a fraud? Well, first, the mileage is showing 6556 miles away. Close to the same mileage I saw on umpteen other fraudulent profiles. When I searched the distance between Oklahoma City and Lagos, Nigeria, it calculated 6541.9 miles. Coincidence?? I don’t think so.

Additionally, when I searched the first sentence,

I want someone who is upfront and honest, and I will do the same,”

I found it verbatim on a totally separate profile on a separate site. Basically, the entire bio is a copy and paste of romance buzzwords. Just pick a phrase and Google it. You’ll see.

After reflecting upon my 6 1/2-month Tinder journey, I’ve composed the following list of pros and cons of said journey:

  • I’ve sharpened my research skills, specifically, how to reverse search an image on Google and tineye. [PRO]
  • I’ve developed painful tendonitis in my right arm, due to incessent swiping. (At least that’s my official Google-searched medical diagnosis; I’ve not yet gone to the actual doctor.) [CON]
  • I’ve increased disdain for low-life assholes who steal photos, lie about who they are, and prey upon decent people. [PRO? CON? You decide.]
  • I’ve accumulated an ass-load of blog-fodder. [PRO]
  • I’ve gone on a few dates with three attractive, considerate guys. [PRO]
  • I’ve experienced a boost of self-confidence as a result of the aforementioned dates. [PRO]
  • I’ve gained one friend–another positive outcome of the aforementioned dates. [PRO]
  • I’ve missed out on sleep, writing time, sleep, time with friends and family, and did I mention, sleep? [CON]

My Tinder Mission is over. I’m ready to move along. If I never meet a real guy to spend the rest of my life with, that’s fine. If I run into my Romeo, Prince Charming, Mr. Right, or Iron Man while selecting my favorite Greek yogurt or waiting my turn at the pharmacy, even better. I know that I gave it my best shot, and I don’t want to waste another minute swiping left, right, up, or down on a dating app. For now, I have laundry to attend to. And possibly a nap.

Feel free to leave your comments! Thanks for reading!  

Tinder Photo Swiping

I’ve lost count of the number of profiles I’ve reported as spam or Nigerian scammers this past week. These are only some of them. If you know the guys in these pics, let them know their photos have been “swiped” (pun intended). See a previous post for another stolen profile pic.


Warri is in Nigeria.



Ado Ekiti is also in Nigeria.


I want to find out how the blue airplane icon with “swiping in ______” shows up. Anyone know? I’m sure they can fake it somehow. Inquiring minds . . . 

Scammers commonly say this: “I’m here for something serious, not here for games.” (See below profile).



(See profile below). Notice the mileage, where he says he’s from, the recurring schpiel that he’s deployed for “peace keeping”, and the omission of certain words that are indicative of a person whose first language is NOT English.

(See the text messages below). This one immediately asked to switch to another chat app, and he’s also deployed for peace keeping in Africa–SHOCKING, right? 



I’m not sure how long I can keep up this scammer-reporting mission because it’s certainly time-consuming. Who knows if these photos will even reach the right people, and even then, what can they do about the scum-suckers taking advantage of them and their service to our country? Not to mention those who fall prey to the low-lifes’ schemes. However, maybe something magical can come out of heeding my BS-O-Meter!

Thanks for reading! Feel free to share this info and to add your expertise or thoughts in the comment section. 

Actual Tinder Scammer Profile

So, if anyone recognizes these guys, take a minute to inform them that their photos have been hijacked. This is a perfect example of a “typical” Nigerian scammer Tinder profile. (See my previous post).



Let Yourself Off the Hook

Newbie teachers or teachers-to-be who have observed in my classroom will always get this advice from me: You have to learn when and how to let yourself off the hook.

We teachers go into this crazy, effed-up world of education with a mother load of idealistic goals and values, as I believe we should. Why would anyone do it otherwise? However, balancing those ideals with in-your-face reality is a constant battle.

It took me a few years to determine where to draw the line. I frequently have to reflect on what’s using up my energy and how effective it is. So I remind myself about the following:

  • I can’t be everything to everybody.

At first, I thought I was expected to be super-teacher and that I could make a huge difference in every student (inflated ego?); now, I’m a big believer that if I can’t seem to connect with a student, even after great effort, I have to trust that there is someone else out there who will make an impact on that child: Another teacher, a mentor, a relative, a celebrity, someone.

  • If I burn myself out, I’m no good to anyone.

With a minimum of 120 kids per year, I can either spin my wheels and exhaust myself trying to make mountainous strides with each student, or I can try to follow the motto, “Quality, not quantity, is golden.” (I don’t know if I made this up, or if I’m ripping it off, nevertheless, I’m using it.)

How do I decide who gets most of my attention and energy? Just constant reflection, awareness, and prayer. There’s no magic formula because students are people, not numbers.

If you have a teacher motto that you’ve found works for you, please share. Or, if you are about to embark on the treacherous journey of being an educator, feel free to ask questions. I might not know the answer, but maybe we can find it together. 🙂

Tinder BS-O-Meter Sounds Again

So, since my post on Sunday, there have been about five or six more dudes that have alerted my Tinder bullshit-o-meter. {sigh} I reported them, but geez, I’m beginning to think that every picture I see on there has been snatched by the Nigerian scammers. (No offense to Nigerians, in general. Just the scummy scammers.)

All this time spent swiping when I could’ve been sleeping. Blech.

Anyone else have some dating-site stories to tell??

My Tinder Mission

It began as a mission to find the right person to spend the rest of my life with, or at least to find an enjoyable date. (I’ve had a few.) However, it has morphed into a mission to deter Nigerian scammers from messing with the emotions of compassionate women and their money.

We all know they are out there, but when we are honest, good-hearted people, do we really see the warning signs?

Here’s my story:

In my six months on Tinder, I’ve matched with many alleged U.S. soldiers that are deployed for “peace keeping” in Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa, etc. After texting with several of them, I noticed patterns in the conversations. So, I did what any inquiring teacher would do. I “got on the Google”, as my mom would say, and did some research. I Googled something like, “scammers posing as soldiers on Tinder”. Bada-bing, bada-bang! I realized my bull-shit radar was correct.

Just a few of the sites that came up:





These “soldiers” have similar tragic stories, like both parents had been killed in a car accident or the wife had died of cancer. One of which said he was a “widow” instead of a “widower”.

They each ask very early in the conversation to switch to another texting app to make it easier to talk.

Sometimes the app shows their location as near Akure, Ado-Ekiti, Ikare, or some other unfamiliar place. Google Maps will show you that these are located in southwestern Nigeria. (A flashing red light after reading the above sites.)

All of these guys’ texts are consistent with grammatical, punctuation, and spelling errors you would see from a second language learner. I’ve taught English for more than 10 years. Most of my students have been second language learners, so I’m familiar with common errors that occur with non-native speakers.

Actual texts I received that show what I mean:

“I’m going for work now.”

“is there any luck for your match?”

“I will like to know you better.”

“What month are you I’m Febuary”

Within about two hours of texting, these “soldiers” start calling me “babe” and express that they are falling for me or that I am everything they’ve been looking for in a woman. The second day of texting, one said that he told his kids about me. Really?? That’s ridiculous.

“i would like to have you as my soulmate”

“I told my kids about you last night They can’t wait to met with you”

“its nothing……..distance is just a name……….wet time we will get to see we just have to give more time to know ourselves”

(What the hell does that even mean??)

One had the username of Williams Jones. Yes, Williams, with an “s”, but as a first name, not a surname. When I zoomed in on one of his photos, I noticed the name embroidered on his work jacket was Travis McQueen. When I asked the guy about why the name on his jacket was different, communication ceased and within a few minutes, that photo had been replaced with a different one.

So, I thought I would try to find the real Travis McQueen. Took me about 30 minutes or so, but I found him. The photos from Tinder and the one on the guy’s work site were definitely of the same dude. His brief bio showed he had been honorably discharged from the military several years ago. Thus, definitely not “currently deployed for peace keeping.” I tried emailing him to alert him about someone using his photos on Tinder, but never received a reply. At least I tried, right?

Now, my bull-shit radar is always on high alert. If I detect something suspicious, I report it as “feels like spam” and move on. I know I won’t stop scammers from posing as U.S. soldiers, from stealing photos, or from duping people out of their money, but maybe I can slow one or two of them down a bit and piss ’em off in the process. And, perhaps, I will unwittingly match with the love of my life.

If you have a similar experience, please share it in the comments. Thanks for reading!! 🙂

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