October 30, 2002

Credit Cards and Pondering a New computer I

I've never been in debt. Okay, that's not entirely true. Yes, I've been in the kind of debt where I had to make car payments, and I'm currently in the kind of debt that says I have to make house payments.

I've never been in credit card debt, however. Truth be told, I've never even owned a credit card. I don't trust them. I've been conditioned not to trust them thanks to many years of living with college roommates.

Most of my college roommates had this weird outlook on credit cards. Basically, they thought credit cards were magical pieces of plastic that just magically paid for things and that they were somehow immune from the the ensuing debt that came about due to excessive credit card spending.

I'll admit it: I was sort of jealous of my roommates and their magical credit cards. After all, they always seemed to have money and, if they didn't, they just whipped out their credit cards. Books? Put them on the credit card. Food? Put it on the credit card. Night out at a strip club? credit card.

And yet there I was writing checks and budgeting like a fool. I remember thinking that I was doing everything all wrong. I mean, there I would sit, meticulously lording over my finances, while my roommates went waltzing all over town swiping their credit cards with the careless glee of a six-year-old with a loaded pistol.

Then, one year, I was a roommate with a guy named Chad. Chad was actually a former high school classmate of mine. He was, and is, a tech-head. He's one of those guys who was born to know technology. Way back in elementary school, he taught me how to write simple programs for the Apple IIc, and he always just seemed to know everything about computers.

But he didn't know shit about personal finances. He whipped out any one of his many credit cards with the swiftness and ease of a Old West gunslinger. By the time we became roommates, he had already accrued over $10,000 in credit card debt.

I remember thinking what an incredibly large amount of money that seemed to be, especially when I factored in the understanding that he also received financial aid, and that he also worked. Granted, he worked at the local Brach's candy factory on the Gummi Bear line, which paid about as well as you might imagine, but it was still money, so I came to the conclusion that old Chad was a pretty carefree spender.

Well, one day, I popped into Chad's outrageously messy room where I noticed, tucked between two huge bags of pilfered defective Gummi Bears, a credit card notice that was slugged "Urgent!" and another that was slugged "Immediate Payment Required" and still another that read "We Break Fingers And Toes."

Then the calls started coming in, usually two or three a day. "Is Mr. Haugen available? We really need to speak with him." No, he's not here. "Are you sure you're not really Mr. Haugen?" Yes, I'm sure. "Well, when he comes in, have him call Mike at Discover immediately." *sound of shotgun cocking* Will do.

Chad was masterful when it came to avoiding creditors. He always seemed to leave the apartment just two or three minutes before a creditor called. It was like he had some sort of sixth sense. Which was all fine and dandy, except that I ended up being the intermediary between Chad and the creditors, so I got to absorb all the impatient anger and suspicion of basically every credit card company on the planet.

It was the day a creditor appeared, in person, at our doorstep that I realized Chad's debt situation was probably more dire than Chad cared to admit. There was a knock at the door, I answered, and a gentleman in a suit that looked both impressive and threatening stood before me. He asked to see a Mr. Chad Haugen, at which point I heard a little scuffling emanating from Chad's room as Chad scurried out the back entrance which, conveniently, was located at the far end of his bedroom.

We chatted together, the ominous creditor and me, for about an hour, waiting for Chad to get home, even though, of course, there was no way in holy hell Chad was going to make an appearance while that guy was in our apartment. I even had to produce my ID, so the creditor was satisfied that I wasn't, in fact, Chad Haugen.

After that, I believe, Chad ended up getting a loan from his parents, or somebody, so he could pay off his credit card debt at least enough to keep the creditors at bay. He eventually got a job working at IBM, which was a long-assed commute from Winona to Rochester, but paid a whole lot more than the Gummi Bear line.

As for me, Chad's experience with credit cards pretty much scared me away from plastic for good.

Pondering a New computer

I received my contracting paycheck in the mail yesterday, so naturally I started mentally spending it before I even put it in my wallet. I've become a bit of a shameless spender the past couple of weeks, a sure indicator that winter's icy grasp has two fingers tickling my throat. When confronted with the onset of long dark evenings, I start buying things to help me while away the interminable darkness, such as purchasing Sims Unleashed and Alien vs. Predator 2.

Alas, it's become painfully evident that my 450 MHz Pentium III machine, built over two years ago, is woefully unable to keep up with the latest slew of computer games, so an upgrade is a must. Unfortunately, the computer guru who was my roommate three years ago and who helped me construct my last machine, is now married and living elsewhere, and I'm a technological fool when it comes to tinkering with computer innards.

I'm not against buying store bought computers, but I don't care for how many machines have video cards built in rather than removable. You can extend a computer's life for quite some time if you can dig around and upgrade video and audio cards. Also, I can't stand all the extra software they cram onto store bought computers, so I end up wiping everything clean and just installing Windows XP plain, no chocolate topping, no sprinkles, no AOL v. 128.

But, in my current position as an independent contractor for IBM, my tax preparer has assured me that now is the time to buy things in preparation for tax write-offs. And, topping the list of "I want" is a new computer, right away, no waiting for it to be manufactured and delivered. So, to you computer know-it-alls out there, please suggest the best brand name to buy off the shelf. Remember my #1 requirement: it must have removable video and audio cards. Thank you for your feedback.

Posted by Ryan at 10:46 AM | Comments (0)

October 29, 2002

So Glad I'm Not a

So Glad I'm Not a Trooper

I went out to eat with my former college roommate and best friend, Troy, last night in Winona. He's now a Minnesota State Trooper working Winona County after a two year stint patrolling the metro area around Hennepin. Talking with Troy always serves as a reminder why I'm actually content to sit behind a desk while he deals with the dregs of society and the daily drama that ensues on highways due to accidents or just bad decisions.

We went to a bar for a beer, and there were pictures of a former waitress adorning the walls in tribute-like fashion. She died a few months ago due to a motorcycle accident (she wasn't wearing a helmet). I sat there, studying her pictures. She was a pretty thing, with a stellar figure and a stunning smile, obviously a girl who made friends easy and sent male libidos into overdrive.

"I had to do chest compressions on her," said Troy as he sipped his beer and toggled his glances between the photos and Monday Night Football.

"Really? I didn't know that," I said. "I knew you were on scene but I didn't know you were so involved."

"It was pointless," he muttered. "I could see blood squirting out of the back of her head each time I pushed down. Turned out that she didn't have a back of her head. It was gone."

Troy has seen more death and gore during the past four years, I can't even imagine. He's cleaned up after suicides, wiped brain residue off light posts, and has seen the charred remains of a motorist who was unable to escape his burning vehicle. And yet, he maintains a detached aura about him, as if the stench of death ceases to exist once he's off duty. It's an amazing mental trick, and I admire that strength about him. Still, I had to ask how he deals with seeing people his age or younger with their life force snuffed out, usually in the most gory way imaginable.

"You have to believe that each person has their time," he explained. "If you dwell on it too much, it could really start to bother you. I've seen pukes that have no reason to live walk away from accidents, and I've seen good people with bright futures killed by drunk drivers. If you believe that each person has their time, it's actually pretty easy to work around it."

We sipped our beers and watched the Eagles beat the Giants, while outside a distant siren wailed.

Posted by Ryan at 09:34 AM | Comments (0)

October 28, 2002

One Born Every Minute lisaheins@hotmail.com

One Born Every Minute

lisaheins@hotmail.com says: The Oxygen equipment comes in either Wednesday or Thursday

Ryan says: The idea is going to tank. No pun intended.

lisaheins@hotmail.com says: It's supposed to be up and running at the mall on Friday

lisaheins@hotmail.com says: don't knock it until you try it

Ryan says: It's common sense. People in Minnesota, particularly Rochester, won't pay for air.

lisaheins@hotmail.com says: we'll see

Ryan says: People in Vegas will do it because they have too much money.

lisaheins@hotmail.com says: why don't you try it once, then tell me how it's going to tank

Ryan says: I have tried it. My brother and I sat in an oxygen bar in Colorado when we were skiing once.

Ryan says: Whoopty do.

lisaheins@hotmail.com says: I like it. So, whoopty do right back at ya

Ryan says: Okay, but would you pay for it on a regular basis?

lisaheins@hotmail.com says: yeah

Ryan says: People will try it out of curiosity, but they probably won't be return customers.

lisaheins@hotmail.com says: well, we were return customers in Vegas

Ryan says: And you somehow represent the population as a whole?

lisaheins@hotmail.com says: yes. I do

lisaheins@hotmail.com says: if this thing flies... then great. if not, then, I'll be siting and having oxygen at Tim's house

Ryan says: And, I'm simply stating my opinion that it won't be a hot seller in Rochester.

lisaheins@hotmail.com says: I don't know how it's going to fly in this hole in the wall city but, I know that I like it. And, I think there are other people out there who will too. who knos

Ryan says: http://webmd.lycos.com/content/article/1668.51681

lisaheins@hotmail.com says: That's just one person's opinion

Ryan says: Did you even read it?

lisaheins@hotmail.com says: Yes. But, I don't think that he's trying to say it's a cure for everything

Ryan says: It's not a person's opinion. It's a news article fully explaining the pros and cons.

lisaheins@hotmail.com says: too much of anything is not good for you. People have died from too much water

Ryan says: Yeah, it's called "drowning."

lisaheins@hotmail.com says: I don't see anything wrong with it

Ryan says: I didn't say there was anything wrong with it.

lisaheins@hotmail.com says: I'm getting the vibe from you that you might think it's not that good of an idea

Ryan says: Not in Rochester, no. In cities where people have money to spend on recreational air sniffing, sure.

lisaheins@hotmail.com says: I think people will do the same thing here

Ryan says: My personal feeling is that any perceived benefits are a result of placebo effect. You're strapped with an oxygen mask and told it will make you feel better, so it makes you feel better.

lisaheins@hotmail.com says: that could be to a point, but, I think it does help

Ryan says: Ask youself: If sniffing oxygen actually provided health benefits, why doesn't the medical community promote its use?
Here's a little known fact. Oxygen is actually a poison. It's the reason we age.

lisaheins@hotmail.com says: Oxygen is used in medical purposes. there are people who have oxygen tanks

Ryan says: Yeah, because their lung capacity is such that they can't saturate their red blood cells with O2. The average healthy person already has as much oxygen as their red blood cells can carry.

lisaheins@hotmail.com says: thanks, Ryan

Ryan says: Go ahead and believe what you want. Just don't claim to be informed about it. My point is that oxygen bars are the equivalent of herbal remedies. They make health claims without medical testing or medical backing.

Ryan says:
If it makes you feel better, great, just don't expect me to pay for a snoot of oxygen ever again. Been there, done that, didn't do anything for me.

lisaheins@hotmail.com says: I don't think they are making medical claims at all. I just like how it helps me in a better mood

Ryan says: Try eating chocolate. It's cheaper.

lisaheins@hotmail.com says: it's more fattening. I like the idea of a possible way for weight loss without drugs.

Ryan says: Do you honestly believe that sitting and sniffing O2 will help people lose weight?

Posted by Ryan at 03:23 PM | Comments (0)

Let's Play Password IBM does

Let's Play Password

IBM does so love its passwords.

I've been wandering the hallways of Big Blue for three years now, and I've become accustomed to the company's near-schizophrenic obsession with passwords. I have to type in a password to access the Internet, the intranet and my e-mail. I need a password to access my voice mail, and I must remember a three-digit combination to enter the print room.

But, it's not enough that I have these passwords. No, every six months I have to come up with new passwords because my old passwords may have become compromised, as if there are outside hackers intent on crashing into my inbox to view my edits and comments to the last four magazine articles. As far as sensitive IBM material goes, I'm somewhere between a press release and a memorandum that smoking is only permitted outside the building. In other words, I don't have access to the design specs of anything even remotely valuable. So, why do I have to keep updating my passwords?

"Because," says IBM. "We think it's fun to torment you with frustrating shit like this that totally eats into your productivity."

So, I come into IBM today and am confronted by a sea of e-mails telling me that my passwords for the Internet and intranet will expire in 14 days. To head off the impending date, I was supposed to click the provided link, which I did. I was whisked away to a magical world where I entered my e-mail, current password, and a new password. I like to keep things simple, so I just kept the guts of my password intact and simply changed the middle number from "1" to "2." Well, IBM will have none of that, mister.

No, I was informed that new passwords cannot resemble old passwords. This must be a recent policy change by IBM, because I've been toggling between the same two passwords for the last three years without a hitch. So, I broke out a pen and paper and jotted down a new, totally different password, and tacked it on my desk so I don't forget it. Now, I realize that it kind of flies in the face of security to have my passwords tacked up on my desk for all the world to see, but I'm here to tell you that everybody does it. Peruse any IBM office and you'll see pictures of friends and family members interspersed with password reminders.

IBMer: That's little Kelly. She's four years old now. And that's Steven. He turned eight last week. And that's a piece of paper with my new passwords for the Internet and intranet: Kelly4 and Steven8.

Armed with a totally new password, I went back and typed in the information, only to be greeted by a warning that the password information I provided was incorrect. Incorrect? How the hell is that possible? I know what my current password is. I've been using it without incident for the past six months. So, I go back and try it again, only to be greeted by the same frustrating warning. Apparently, the password that I know is right is actually wrong, and I can't change my password until I enter the correct old password. So, now I'm getting pissed.

I click a different link that brings up a Web page where I have to enter my e-mail information, authorizing a machine somewhere to automatically change my password and send me an e-mail notice that will include my new password. No problem. If I can't change my own password, I'll let the Hal 9000 do it for me. I toggle back to my e-mail and get my new password, a nonsense jumble of numbers and letters that can only be memorized by Stephen Hawking and possibly a few idiot savants.

Back to the password change page I go. I re-enter my e-mail information, insert the new computer-generated password, and suggest a new password. And. . .

And the same damned warning page appears, telling me my password information is incorrect. What?! How can an IBM computer disagree with a password generated by another IBM computer? Come to think of it, how can any work be done anywhere within IBM when all the employees spend two hours changing passwords to no avail? I think it's all part of some strange test to see how much idiocy a person can endure.

Whatever the reason, I still don't have a new password, and I have no idea how to change it. There's only one solution.

I need to find a new job within 14 days.

Posted by Ryan at 10:48 AM | Comments (0)

October 27, 2002

"I Really Dig Kitty Litter"

"I Really Dig Kitty Litter" c. Ryan Rhodes, April 11, 2002

I experienced a groundbreaking revelation last week as I read the online news at MSNBC.com. According to one of their news reports, a county in Nevada is disputing the mining rights to a local rich deposit of kitty litter clay. Kitty litter is mined? I did not know this.

Now, I've never owned a cat, and aside from occasionally finding lumps of cat droppings in my sandbox as a child, I never really gave that much thought to kitty litter. Well, that's not entirely true. I remember laughing uncontrollably when I went to the neighbor's to play and their cat would go through the ritual of raking its cat box with its paws and then settling in with a "Do you mind?" expression on its face.

Little did I realize, however, that the dust free pebbles that absorb moisture and mask odors are, in fact, the result of extensive mining efforts of tireless men working in dangerous conditions at the bottom of massive kitty litter pit-mines. Intrigued, I decided to learn all I could about kitty litter mining.

My quest began on the Internet, where I logged onto Yahoo! and did a search on "kitty litter mining." The results were astounding.

Apparently, kitty litter was invented in 1947 by a man named Ed Lowe who suggested his neighbor try using clay instead of sand to fill her cat box. Mr. Lowe was a St. Paul, Minn., native, which begs the question why our license plates don't read "Birthplace of Kitty Litter" instead of "Land of 10,000 Lakes." Although I was pleased to know that Lowe was the founder of Tidy Cat, my thirst for kitty litter mining information remained unquenched. Back to the Web.

Although I was able to find all sorts of information about kitty litter -- did you know the name of a common kitty litter clay is Fullers Earth? -- I simply couldn't find out what type of techniques are used to unearth the precious poo clumping rock.

I don't know. I guess I always had a romantic notion of mining: rugged individualists fighting the odds, and nature, to locate a rich ore vein guaranteed to make them rich beyond their wildest dreams.

Myself, I would have a tough time admitting that I'm a kitty litter miner. Now, gold mining, that's different: the rugged look of a bedraggled gold miner hidden behind a thick beard, his eyes worn by countless dashed hopes; that's mining. Somehow, wielding a pick ax in the name of feline freshness just lacks something. Eureka, I have found a rich vein of Fresh Step!!

HANK: Hey, Jim, I'm a' going up into the mountains again. Probably be gone a few months. I have a good feeling this time.

JIM: Aw, what are you doing, Hank? Yer not chasing after that kitty litter dream of yours again, are ya? When you gonna give that up?

HANK: You watch your tongue, Jim, fore I go an' slice it outta yore mouth!

JIM: Look at yerself, Hank. Just look at yerself. Yer flat broke. Ya lost four fingers the last time ya went up there. Yer covered in cat hair. And, I gotta be honest, Hank, yer not smelling all that good lately.

HANK (faraway look in his eyes): Ya just don't get it Jim. Ya just don't know what I know.

JIM: And what do ya know Hank? Just what do ya know?

HANK: Thar's litter in them hills.

I would be most remiss if I didn't also present a dark side to the kitty litter industry. Apparently, environmentalists take umbrage with kitty litter, maintaining the mining is an affront to the landscape and that kitty litter dust itself is a health hazard.

So, the next time you refill Fluffy's cat box, take a moment to fully appreciate the magical rock into which your favorite feline relieves itself. Let the clay pebbles fall through your fingers; marvel at the super-absorbent nature of the clay. And remember the rallying cry of bygone miners who labored to bring you the precious substance.

Thar's litter in them hills.

Posted by Ryan at 11:11 PM | Comments (0)

October 24, 2002

Regis and Kelly on Mute

Regis and Kelly on Mute and Things That Annoy Me

I woke up this morning and discovered my Internet access, typically lightning fast, was suffering an apparent hangover in cyberspace and couldn't present Web pages any faster than one or two pages every five minutes. Now, I depend on my dose of news headlines first thing in the morning, if for no other reason because, after reading the news, the rest of my day seems pretty great.

Lacking immediate access to breaking news about the D.C. area sniper and his obsession with killing innocents, I opted to click on the TV, only to be greeted by Regis and Kelly, a show I've never seen. At that moment, my Internet started behaving, apparently shaking off the DTs from last night's Internet drinking binge, so I put the TV on mute.

A funny thing about Regis and Kelly on mute; you can really get a taste for how much those two apparently can't stand each other. I haven't seen so much eye rolling since watching the Cookie Monster on Sesame Street as a child. When Regis was talking, Kelly was doing her incredulous best to let the audience know that she thought Regis was a geriatric pants pooper, and when Kelly opened her chasm to speak, it was plainly obvious through Regis' body language that he regarded Kelly as a no-talent elf about to collapse under the weight of her own make-up. I don't know, maybe I'm wrong. But I'm never wrong, at least according to me.

Oh, and if you want a window into the resume of Kelly Ripa, here's an excerpt from this site: Ripa's television career began in November 1990 when she joined the popular ABC Television Network daytime drama "All My Children" in the role of Hayley Vaughan. Ripa, who sees a little bit of herself in Hayley, had been attending Camden Community College (motto: We're Not Much, but Kelly Ripa Goes Here) in New Jersey and had performed in local theater productions, including "H.M.S. Pinafore," (hey, my cousin was in that about ten years ago) "The Wizard of Oz" and "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court," (what, no King Lear or something a tad more challenging?) before coming to the show. Her entry into acting came suddenly. After performing in her senior high school play, "The Ugly Duckling," she was encouraged to pursue acting. (did anyone else notice that they just listed a high school performance as somehow constituting acting experience?) Ripa, who has one sibling, is the first in her family to enter the acting profession. (I'm betting her other siblings haven't graduated yet). She has studied ballet since age three, plays the piano and, in her words, is "no Barbra Streisand but can carry a tune" (good, carry it elsewhere, you maddeningly coifed hack).

You know what annoys me? I'll tell you what annoys me. It annoys me when radio DJs feel as though they must creatively speak their way through the opening bars of a good song. This practice, known as a segue, should be stopped immediately. Just because the first 15 seconds of a song have no lyrics, that doesn't mean you should fill the time with irritating crap about the radio station, upcoming events, or just general mindless blather. I want to hear the song! Shut up! Shut up! Just shut the hell up!

Oh, it also annoys me when people at a convenience store pay for purchases totalling less than $5 use a credit card. Argh! Don't you people know about the exchange medium called cash? It's green. There are pictures of past presidents on it. And it's fast, primarily because, when you use cash, you don't have to wait for a machine to dial into a credit database, print out a receipt, and have you sign it. If you can't carry at least $10 in cash with you, you don't deserve to go anywhere. The longer we have to wait for you people and your credit card processing, the longer we have to sit idly in the crosshairs of a sniper's scope. Please, think of the sniper.

Posted by Ryan at 10:31 AM | Comments (0)

October 22, 2002

"Important News You May Have

"Important News You May Have Missed" c. Ryan Rhodes, Oct. 14, 2002

I feel it is my duty, as a dedicated journalist, to bring to my valued readers the news items deemed unworthy by the "established" media outlets around the nation.

Sure, you're kept up to date on the economy, the war on terrorism, and the establishment of Krispy Kreme outlets in the Twin Cities. But, what about the lesser news stories, the runts of the news world that deserve valuable ink just as much as their more compelling news kin?

Yes, what about important news items about dwarf tossing and toilet paper novels? Don't these stories warrant more than just a passing snobbish sniff from the elitist noses tapping away at computers behind the metropolitan news desks? Yes, I say, yes! So, let's begin.

According to a Sept. 27 Reuters news report out of Geneva, Switzerland, a tiny stuntman named Manuel Wackenheim (a name that is a human rights violation in itself) officially protested, before a U.N. human rights body, a French ban on the practice of "dwarf throwing."

That's right, dwarf throwing, otherwise known as dwarf tossing, a pastime that is practiced around the world, usually in bars (if you can believe that), that involves men competing to see who can throw a dwarf the furthest.

Wackenheim reportedly argued that the 1995 French ban was discriminatory and actually deprived him of his lucrative employment of "being hurled around discotheques by burly men." I don't know about you, but if I were glancing through the classifieds, and I saw an item searching for a person willing to be hurled around discotheques by burly men, I'd probably keep looking. Then again, I guess I don't really know how much a good tossing dwarf makes in an evening. I'm betting it's no small change.

According to the article, the 3'10" inch stuntman, who wears a crash helmet and padded clothing with handles on the back to facilitate better throwing, lost his case before a U.N. human rights body, which said the need to protect human dignity was paramount. Those U.N. human rights bodies are such party poopers.

I feel I should interject a little commentary here. I mean, seriously, if a person makes the conscious decision that he or she wants to wear a crash helmet and padded clothing with handles and be hurled around discotheques by burly men, isn't that their right? I mean. . . *snicker* *giggle* *uncontrollable laughter* I'm sorry, where was I? Oh, yes, toilet paper novels.

According to an Oct. 10 Reuters news item out of Frankfurt, Germany, countrymen who enjoy thumbing through great works of literature while nature calls can now flip through new toilet paper rolls printed with novels and poems.

It's news stories like this that make me slap my forehead forcefully while exclaiming "now why didn't I think of that!" I've been such a fool, carrying a rolled up magazine under my armpit every time I want to catch up on a little bathroom reading. All this time, the answer to my reading dilemma was right under my nose, um, metaphorically speaking.

In actuality, I believe the concept of toilet paper roll novels is a monumentally bad idea. Imagine all the unrolled toilet paper littering bathroom floors due to the Charmin release of "War and Peace." Or, what about the chaos that would ensue in public bathrooms when stall-goers sit down only to discover their roll is in mid-chapter.

BATHROOM GOER #1: *knocking on stall wall* Psst, hey buddy, do you have the first 124 squares of chapter 15?

BATHROOM GOER #2: No! Get your own roll!

To quote the article, "'We want our books to be used. That's our philosophy,' said Georges Hemmerstoffer, head of the Klo-Verlag which publishes the toilet paper literature. About half of all people liked to read on the toilet, he said.'

What I want to know is: what unfortunate soul or souls had to conduct the survey that discovered half of all people liked to read on the toilet? I'm envisioning dogged survey takers, both shoes trailing toilet paper, chasing down bathroom goers to ask whether they enjoy reading in the bathroom.

Yes, I'm pretty sure that, if you find yourself employed as a bathroom survey taker, it's probably time to find employment elsewhere.

I hear there's a bright future in dwarf tossing.

Posted by Ryan at 08:36 PM | Comments (0)

Something Winter This Way Comes

Something Winter This Way Comes

Melissa bounded into her bedroom Sunday morning, in her typically playful way, jumped on me (still shrouded in slumber), and then peeked out the window.

"Did you look outside, Ryan?" she asked, and I grunted negatively, cracking my eyes open just enough to see Mel fully in awe of whatever it was going on outside. She then looked down at me with a big smile and leaned in to kiss me.

"It's snowing," she whispered after removing her tongue from my mouth.

I sat up with her and looked out the window. Indeed, the trees outside her window were sporting a puffy layer of freshly fallen snow, as big, sloppy, wet flakes descended to the ground and quickly melted upon impact. Oh, poop, it's winter.

I've been keenly aware of the encroachment of this accursed season, with it's sudden drop in temperature coinciding with a conspicuous lack of daylight. I've noticed the strange pain in my left knee as I run, a seasonal irritation that seems right out of the pages of The Farmer's Almanac. I've also noticed that my ambition levels have subsided considerably, and I find it more and more difficult to drag myself outdoors to run and to attend my hapkido classes every Tuesday and Thursday night.

My bedroom, now dark by 6 p.m., resembles a bear's den more and more, and I feel it is my duty to hibernate, as I tried to do last night when I fell asleep at 6:30 p.m. and slept straight through to 8:30 this morning (yes, that's 14 straight hours, almost a new record for me).

Each year, as daylight savings time draws ever-closer, I start wondering how I'm going to make it through yet another Minnesota winter, the interminably dark and cold months of window scraping and bundling up. How can anyone choose to live this way? The answer lies in the minute wonders inherent in the season.

The first real snowfall, the one that garners enough strength to cover the ground and hide all that is brown and bleak, is truly a wonder of the season. Every lawn becomes one and the same, and rivalries between neighbors to see who can maintain the most flawless yard are dropped. Snow is the great equalizer, forcing everyone to realize that, no matter how much money they make, they're not going anywhere until their driveway is cleared.

Outdoor Christmas lights, which were a novelty 20 years ago, now bedeck every house pretty much from November until late January, a celebration of light during a season when darkness seems to envelop everything.

Daylight hours, seemingly infinite during the summer months, are a precious commodity in winter, forcing people to really appreciate when the sun emerges, even if it is only for 10 hours at a stretch. And there's nothing brighter than a noonday sun glaring off a fresh blanket of snow.

If I don't acknowledge the tiny miracles of winter as they present themselves, I'll surely go insane suffering its many drawbacks.

Posted by Ryan at 01:47 PM | Comments (0)

October 21, 2002

I Don't Need Help During

I Don't Need Help During toilet Time

It's a funny thing about going to the bathroom. Ever since I solidified my expertise with the bowl, I haven't really sought out the assistance of others. Of all the hygiene activities I like to perform alone, going to the bathroom and washing up afterwards is top among them.

I've relieved myself in an assortment of venues, both clean and not so clean. Truck stop bathrooms are usually among the worst; battered enclaves with stall doors that look like they were attacked by ogres intent on depositing their last 15 meals in one, um, sitting. Seriously, why are the doors of so many men's room stalls so beat up? How bad does the average trucker have to shit that he has to, apparently, lower a shoulder and assault his way to defacatory release?

TRUCKER: Oh God, oh God, oh God!! For the love of all that's pure and holy, let me in this stall so I can dispose of the the $18 Taco Bell meal I ingested last night! Open damn you!! Open!! *punch* *kick* *shoulder* *head butt*

Well, anyway, my gripe this time is not with those bathrooms that look as though they suffered a direct cruise missile attack. Nay, my gripe this evening lies with those bathrooms that look as though they're used by royalty, bedecked with an atmosphere more suited to ballroom dancing than digestive expulsion.

Saturday night, after a lengthy, and I might add frustrating, search for an eating establishment in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, my girlfriend and I ended up at the Mall of America, that eating Mecca of the culinary world. Why did we go there? Because, we were forced there due to an insane traffic jam on our way to a nice place called the Red Stone. Now, the Mall of America is great if you want to people watch and peruse astronomically priced merchandise, but as far as eating goes, you'd be better off gnawing on an old boot. Your choices are usually deep fried things or batter fried things.

A little known fact about me: when I get seriously hungry, as in 24 hours since my last morsel, I tend to get surly. Melissa sensed my irritation, primarily because I cut off four cars and burned rubber at a stoplight on my way into the parking lot of the Mall of America. I then proceeded to hate everyone we walked past, because they looked full and content, whilst I sustained myself on only the acids my stomach produced.

Mel, desperate to alleviate my sour mood, steered me toward a place called Jillians, a bar/grill/arcade. It's also an annoying place to go if you're hungry. I was so irritable, I could only grunt. I think I actually felt my cranium protruding and desiring a bumpy club in my right hand with which to bludgeon game. I was that hungry.

We sat down and, despite a cacophony of noise, ordered chips and salsa and margaritas. I then made my way to the bathroom, fully expecting a nice, clean, non-intrusive bathroom-going experience. What I encountered was a haze of burning incense and a young man who thought he deserved a tip for spritzing hands with soap and handing out folded pieces of paper towel.

Don't ge me wrong. I've known since I was quite young that there are bathrooms in the world that sport such opulence. But, why in the world would you want one in a sports bar, in the Mall of America, in Minnesota (state motto: leave me alone, especially in the bathroom)?

So, I walk into the bathroom, absorb the aura of burning incense, acknowledge the gentleman awaiting a tip for doing nothing at the counter, and realize that I'm already too far into the experience to back out. There I was, in the bathroom. I couldn't just slink out and pretend I didn't know why I was in there. I had to tinkle. So I did.

But now, I had an audience. I couldn't just leave, not after holding onto my own wang as I urinated, without washing my hands. I'm usually diligent about washing my hands after a bathroom-going experience, but I don't usually have an expectant attendant eager to douse my hands in Dove for a tip. I didn't want his attention, but neither did I want to go back out with unwashed hands and eat chips and salsa with my girlfriend.

I went up to the sink counter, careful to select the sink furthest away from the attendant (maybe he's lazy, I thought). Unperturbed, he hustled over and asked me to extend my hands so he could slather them with soap. I accepted. Then, he hurried over with a mat of folded paper towel, and I dried my hands with it. As I dabbed my hands, I noticed a wicker basket of cash, consisting of $1s, $5s, $10s and, yes, $20s. Oh, puh-lease! If I had known I was going to be sent on a guilt trip, I would have packed more. So, I pulled out my wallet, made a gesture like I was going to fish out some cash, and opted simply put it back in my pocket. I then left, throwing the towel in the trash, my hands clean and dry.

So I'm ass. Sue me.

Posted by Ryan at 12:19 AM | Comments (0)

October 18, 2002

Well, I Certainly Feel Better.

Well, I Certainly Feel Better. . .

For those of you who have been feeling just a tad too secure lately, here's a dire warning, compliments of our level-headed political leaders, of the terror situation we've been living in for, oh, just over a year now.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 18 — Terrorists could try to strike again soon in the United States, FBI Director Robert Mueller says, while offering little assurance the agency can thwart the next attack. CIA Director George Tenet says the current situation is comparable to the summer before Sept. 11.

Well, duhhhh! <-- Insert total surfer dude inflection here. Why, I ask you, why does the government feel compelled to keep pounding this obvious crap into our skulls on a daily basis? Oh, right, it's an election year, and our economy is in the pot. Best to focus attention on something that feeds voter fears, I suppose.

"I have a hard time telling the country that you should be comfortable, that we've covered all the bases, in the wake of what we saw they were able to accomplish on Sept. 11," Mueller told the House and Senate Intelligence committees Thursday.

They? Who are they? Oh, right, al Queda, or al Quaida, or al Quaeda, or al Quesadilla. Would somebody please come up with a damn concensus on how that organization spells its name? Argh!

Tenet testified: "You must make the analytical judgment that the possibility exists that people are planning to attack you inside the United States - multiple simultaneous attacks. We are the enemy, we're the people they want to hurt inside this country."

We're the people they want to hurt inside this country? Who else are they going to attack inside this country? Swedes? How bored is the House and Senate that they have to organize committees to hear such obvious testimony? Is there a Committee on Deciding Whether Bile Tastes Better Than Mountain Dew? Actually, that's probably a toss-up, er, no pun intended.

At a hearing called to look back at what intelligence agencies did right and wrong before Sept. 11, many lawmakers focused on the future: How likely is another attack and how prepared are U.S. officials to respond to it? The answers Mueller and Tenet gave were sobering.

Gotta love the journalistic interjection of a little bias. Sobering? Am I to assume the reporter showed up drunk and was magically sobered up by the news that additional attacks are imminent? Why is this entry so littered with questions? Why is "fart" such a funny word?

‘EXECUTION PHASE' (Ooh, now that's an edge-of-your-seat sub-head if ever there was one)

"You must make the assumption that al-Qaida is in an execution phase and intends to strike us both here and overseas," Tenet said, noting recent attacks in Kuwait and Indonesia and off Yemen. "That's unambiguous as far as I'm concerned."

Oh, you want ambiguity? Why didn't you say so? Ladies and gentlemen, we give you the King of Ambiguity (a little nation of no consequence), the honorable George Tenet and his equally ambiguous cohort Gordon Johndroe (not to be confused with John Doe):

Tenet said Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge has already taken defensive measures "in specific areas where the intelligence was most credible and in sectors where we're most worried about." He didn't identify them. The nationwide alert level remains code yellow, or "significant risk of terrorist attacks," because officials do not have specific details on where and when an attack may occur, Homeland Security spokesman Gordon Johndroe said. Yellow is the third-highest of five threat levels.

Now that's ambiguity!

Last week, the FBI and several federal agencies overseeing certain high-risk sectors such as transportation, energy and agriculture sent warnings urging extra precautions. The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., noted intelligence warnings that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein could order terrorist attacks against Americans if the United States invades his country.

Wait a minute. The last I heard, Iraqi ties to terrorism were tenuous at best. Suddenly Saddam is capable of ordering terrorist attacks? Wouldn't Suddenly Saddam be a most excellent NBC sitcom to follow Friends? The premise for the show would be a displaced Iraqi dictator (we'll call him Saddam) trying to eke out a living in a major U.S. metropolitan area (I'm thinking Baltimore).


"I'm concerned that we are not prepared for that, particularly not prepared here inside the United States," Graham said in an interview.

Not prepared for my brilliant Suddenly Saddam sitcom? Who says? Oh, wait, he's talking about terrorism. My bad.

Mueller said the FBI is focusing on the threat of terrorists who would use military action against Iraq as a pretext to strike. But he said an attack as meticulously planned and executed as the Sept. 11 hijackings would be hard to stop. At Thursday's hearing, Tenet offered his most detailed public accounting to date of what the CIA did to stop Osama bin Laden's terrorist network before Sept. 11. He said his agency has saved thousands of lives by successfully stopping terrorist attacks, but admitted some mistakes were made.

Cutscene to images of airliners crashing into World Trade center, smoldering Pentagon wall, large crater in Pennsylvania, and anthrax mail augmenting the assertion that "some mistakes were made."

Tenet said the CIA was convinced months before the Sept. 11 hijackings that bin Laden was plotting to kill large numbers of Americans, but the intelligence available was "maddeningly short" of details. "The most ominous reporting hinting at something large was also the most vague," he said.

Note to al Queda operatives: Be more specific next time.

The session was the last of five weeks of public hearings, part of the committees' inquiry into intelligence failures leading up to the attacks. A final report will be issued in coming months.

Oh, goody. Can I order my copy now? I need something to help me doze off after a long day of feeling terrified.

Tenet, Mueller and National Security Agency Director Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden rejected criticism by inquiry staff that U.S. counterterrorism efforts were hampered by a failure to share information and that they hadn't made fighting terrorism a high enough priority before the attacks. Tenet highlighted agency successes, many of them long secret, including the thwarting of planned attacks in Yemen, Jordan and elsewhere in the Middle East.

They kinda dropped the ball when it came to that whole assault on American soil that happened about a year ago, but at least they thwarted that attack in Yemen.

Tenet also said the CIA lost 18 percent of its budget and 16 percent of its personnel in post-Cold War cutbacks.

Whine alert! Whine alert!

But even before he spoke, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Whip from California, said: "It's not enough to say we didn't have enough money or enough people. No one does. That's always the case. It's about establishing priorities."

*grrowwwlllll* I don't know about you, but I'm exceedingly turned on by the thought of Nancy Pelosi as a dominatrix, brandishing her Democratic Whip. Spank me, baby!


Tenet also clashed with the committees in an area in which he admitted mistakes: the CIA's failure to put two future Sept. 11 hijackers on watch lists preventing their entry into the United States after they were first associated with al-Qaida, in early 2000. They weren't placed on the lists until a few weeks before the attacks. Tenet said the CIA had alerted the FBI in January 2000 that one of the hijackers, Khalid al-Mihdhar, had a U.S. visa; the inquiry staff director said no evidence has been found showing the FBI was told about the visa.

Bitch, bitch, bitch. I propose that all future clashes between the FBI and CIA be conducted with actual swords. It would be far more entertaining.

After Tenet said that apparently no one at CIA headquarters had read a cable that said al-Mihdhar had flown to Los Angeles, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., asked if that was a mistake. "Yes. Of course. In hindsight," Tenet responded.

And that's how the article ended, with Tenet spouting a whipped-dog statement of obeisance. I was hungering for so much more, but I guess I was sufficiently scared by the incompetence of our nation's security as it was.

Posted by Ryan at 12:16 PM | Comments (0)

Why is Face Hugging So

Why is Face Hugging So Much Better Than Life?

Last night, following two hours of hapkido during which my forearms became two giant continuous bruises due to blocking, I settled in with a nice mixed drink consisting of Absolut Vodka, 7-Up, and Minute Maid lemonade. I fired up my latest video game, Alien vs. Predator 2 (thanks Layne), and set about trying to figure out the maddening purchase.

I learned a lot; namely, I learned you can pick off humans from a long ways off using the initial weapon they provide the predator. I mean a long ways off. I'm pretty sure a predator could be sipping a tropical drink in Mauii and pick off a marine in Vermont. Well, anyway, I eventually tired of the predator activity and ventured into the realm of the Aliens, and I finally was able to navigate the face hugger into the room of a sleeping marine, and I just sort of sat there, on my arachnid-like legs, looking at my soon-to-be victim. My mouse button finger was twitching madly, eager to pounce on the face of the snoring marine who had foolishly left his door ajar. Yet I hesitated.

At that moment, a moment that should have been ripe with victory, I started thinking, "why the hell am I playing this game?" I mean, seriously, I have the world literally at my fingertips via the Internet. I could, and should, be writing just for the sake of writing. I could, and should, be surfing for more enjoyable employment. I could, and should, be adding to my cache of Internet porn. I could, and should, be doing a lot of other things that could enrich my existence.

But, I opted to pounce on the marine's face and advance to the next level. And it was fucking cool.

Posted by Ryan at 09:35 AM | Comments (0)

October 17, 2002

Getting Caught With Your Pants

Getting Caught With Your Pants Down, Exposing a Little Bush

So, yesterday, there we sat, an American nation tumbling headlong into a war with Iraq, with a loose cannon of a president at the controls determined to settle an old score and maybe "open the spigot" to the world's second largest oil reserves. Forget our sputtering economy, we had Iraq in our sights, a country that sort of, maybe, possibly, perhaps had some ties with al Queda, and most certainly, almost positively, virtually without a doubt, has been developing weapons of mass destruction, including biological, chemical and nuclear toys. Yes, Saddam was the world's most obvious evil, and we were just a few executive orders away from Gulf War 2: This One's For Daddy. But that was yesterday.

Enter North Korea, a country that enjoyed 15 minutes of fame earlier last year when it was named one of the co-founders of the "Axis of Evil." No, not little North Korea. They're so cute, except for the fact they were covertly working to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapons program. I don't know about you, but I could have sworn, around 4 p.m. yesterday, I heard a muffled scream being carried on the wind from the direction of Washington D.C. It sounded like a familiar Texas drawl yelling "Wall Holy Sheeee-yat!!" Didn't see this one coming, did ya Mr. Bush? Now whatcha gonna do? Huh? Huh? Well, let's examine the facts.

Iraq may be trying to develop nuclear weapons, although we have no firsthand proof. North Korea, on the other hand, is trying to develop nuclear weapons, and they even said so, in a political admission requiring testicles the size of soccer balls or a brain the size of a peanut. Gotta give Kim Jong Il credit for upstaging Saddam. "Oh yeah, Mr. Scourge of the Middle East, look what we can do!"

Seriously, in a world where national pride is measured in technological achievements, how do you keep struggling nations from working to develop the Bomb? It's like the #1 requirement on the national acceptance sheet. "Let's see, we can't feed our people, and our military is pretty much a hodgepodge of pitchfork-weilding farmers, but hey, we have the Bomb, so we have some level of respectability."

Sometimes I wonder if we wouldn't be better off if every country had nukes. Mutually assured destruction for everyone! Let's see who exercises the most restraint.

Posted by Ryan at 10:50 AM | Comments (0)

October 16, 2002

A Whole Bunch of Randomness

A Whole Bunch of Randomness

Just for the record, Compound W is the most amazing wart removal concoction ever developed, er, short of liquid nitrogen I mean. The once massive wart adorning my thumb has been sizzled away to a mere bump of its former self. Granted, a large portion of surrounding skin has also been cooked down into a dermal crater, but that's to be expected. The removal of the wart is of paramount importance, and I think three more days of aggresive treatment will teach that sucker who is da' man! For those of you who are slow on the uptake, I should point out that I, Ryan Rhodes, am the man referred to in the preceeding sentence. Ah, to be wart free. It won't be long now, my pretties.

The girl and I carved pumpkins last night, an activity I haven't engaged in since I was 13 or 14. I'd forgotten how much I disliked the smell and texture of pumpkin guts. They're so slimy and slippery and, just plain "yech." We were up until 2 a.m. carving our gourds, and it was actually quite fun.

A note to Plain Layne. Layne, I went and purchased Alien vs. Predator 2, primarily due to your testosterone-inducing critique. I have to say, I've never had so much trouble trying to learn how to play a freaking video game. My short-lived career as a fledgling face hugger ended ungloriously in the rotating blades of an air-duct fan. Walking on walls and ceilings is among the most disorienting things I can imagine. I hope I'm never reincarnated as a spider. My career as a marine didn't fare much better. I flinched and fired my damn weapon every time I thought I sort of kind of heard a noise. And then something killed me from behind. All those hours of boot camp to be torn apart on a faraway world. What a shame. I haven't tried the predator yet. I figure, if I can't even get a face hugger to hug a face, what chance will I have controlling a predator? I also have to get a new computer. My 450 Mhz processor just can't cut it any more. It's great for Red Alert 2, but AvP is so jerky it reminds me of my first and only attempt at driving a manual transmission automobile.

How come you can sit in your office all day in perfect solitude, but as soon as you let your guard down and let fly with a little flatulence, someone comes in to ask you a question? Every time. Without fail. It's enough to make a man never want to fart again. Okay, even I don't believe that one.

Posted by Ryan at 01:53 PM | Comments (0)

October 15, 2002

I Want to Stuff a

I Want to Stuff a Boot Up Jerry Falwell's Ass

For those not familiar with Jerry Falwell, let me quickly highlight some of his latest gems. Ol' Jerry had the audacity to ascend the pulpit after 9/11 and insist that the attacks, although clearly carried out by terrorists, which he denounced, God may have allowed the tragedy to happen because America had lapsed into moral decay. For Ol' Jerry, moral decay was a direct result of the actions carried out by the ACLU, abortionists, feminists, homosexuals, and the People For the American way. So, there you have it, God was so mad at America's civil liberties, the nation's tolerance of alternative lifestyles, and women who have the gall to actually want equality with men, he allowed the terrorists to strike on 9/11. Excuse me while I roll my eyes and yell "Up yours, Jerry Falwell!" at the top of my lungs.

Not surprisingly, Falwell's remarks were not well-received by the vast majority of Americans, and he quickly backed down, offering an apology and slinking away in true whipped-dog fashion, in order to buy time and come up with a different enemy at which to point fingers. The ever-resourceful Jerry found Islam, and the Islamic world has been railing against Falwell ever since, adding fodder to an already unpopular Islamic view of America as a nation intent on the annihilation of the Muslim faith.

Yes, Jerry found Islam, and he has been sharpening his attacks against the 1.3 billion adherent religion in the hopes of, well, I don't know what his hopes are (*cough, cough* *MONEY!* *cough, cough*). Jerry provides a wealth of ammunition to support his position that Islam is evil, and then he offers up a little piece of commentary of his own. I don't know about you, but I wanted to rake my eyes out as I read what he had to say. But, since I need my eyes, I decided instead to rake over Jerry's words.

Behind The Scenes at The Southern Baptist Convention,
St. Louis, Missouri

By Jerry Falwell

This week's annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention was met with some unexpected fireworks after my friend Dr. Jerry Vines, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Fla., declared that Muhammad was a "demon-possessed pedophile" and that Islam teaches the destruction of all non-Muslims.

Let's see, you attack a world religion, calling it a faith conjured by a "demon-possessed pedophile" and you don't expect fireworks? That's like having unprotected sex with 800 Thai prostitutes and not expecting HIV. Give me a break. He knew exactly what he was saying and he knew exactly what the media fallout would be. It was a test balloon to see how well-received the Falwell anti-Islam stance would be.

If you want to raise the ire of the mainstream press and the swarm of politically-correct organizations in this nation, just criticize Islam (as Dr. Vines learned).

Didn't I just say that?

Dr. Vines' statements were made in reference to the new book, "Unveiling Islam: An Insider's Look at Muslim Life and Beliefs" (Kregel Publications). It is written by scholars Ergun and Emir Caner, brothers raised as Muslims who are today dynamic and outspoken Christians. Ergun is assistant professor of theology and church history at Criswell College in Dallas, while Emir is assistant professor of church history and Anabaptist studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.

Always preface an unpopular and narrow-minded view by trotting out so-called experts with glowing credentials. Everyone knows that professors are authoritative sources for everything, particularly when they hail from such honored and well-known universities as Criswell College (it's homeschooler friendly!) and the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. By the way, Criswell College had a Web hit counter that had 681 visitors, including me. What does that say about their enrollment? Anyone can have glowing credentials if they have a little imagination and a gift for bullshitting. For example, I could be "Ryan Rhodes, a journalist of four years and an award winning columnist, honored by the Minnesota Better newspaper Contest for two years." All of that is true, but all of that doesn't mean a lick of shit.

Dr. Vines also quoted from the Hadith, a respected source for Islamic teaching among Muslim clerics and followers worldwide. Upon examination, the Hadith verifies that Muhammad did marry the nine-year-old daughter of a friend. The girl, named Aisha, became known as the "mother of believers."

"It's simply a matter of quoting [Islamic] sources," said Emir Caner. "If we are wrong in our understanding of the Islamic scriptures, we would be happy to be corrected."
The specific Hadith citation concerning Muhammad's relationship with the young girl is in volume 7, book 6, number 64 and 65, said Ergun Caner. (Both Emir and Ergun Caner were Sunni Muslims who became Christians in 1982.)

Oh, well, as long as we're quoting sources, let's consult our own Bible, you know, the one where Abraham had sex with Hagar, his wife's slave, the one with Solomon and his many wives and his fling with the Queen of Sheba, and the one that hints that masturbation may make you blind (then how come I can still see? Huh? Huh?).

"The comments in question cannot be considered bigotry when they come from Islamic writings," Ergun said during a press conference hosted by Baptist Press in St. Louis.

Yes, yes, I get it. You're quoting Islamic writings. Lousy Hadith-thumpers.

A lengthy passage from the Hadith, volume 1, book 1, chapter 1, shows that Muhammad himself believed he was under demonic influence, but it notes that Muhammad's wife is the one who deemed his experience as "divine," said Ergun.

Concerning terrorism and Islamic jihad, Emir noted differential interpretations by Muslims themselves. Some, he said, see jihad as a "spiritual war," while others see it as meaning "physical," he said.

Well, it took awhile, but we're finally here. We've finally bit into the meat of the issue: jihad. Just saying it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth, like licking the back of your hand after working in a garden. Therefore, it's the perfect word from which to sew the seeds of hate for an entire religion. So, let's get to it. Jerry, back to you.

"Some Muslims want to allegorize their own scriptures because they don't want to defend jihad," Emir said. "But if you take the Koran at its word, or Muhammad at his word, then you'll find physical jihad." In fact, he noted, the highest level of Muslim heaven — which has 70 perpetual virgins on couches — is reserved for Muslims who "shed their blood" (Hadith 135). Islam's inclination toward violence, he added, also is reflected in the Koran: "Slay the enemy where you find him (Surah 9.92).

Christianity has a similar word. It's called crusade, although we haven't invoked the term for quite awhile. And again with the virgins. Gotta mention the virgins. All 70 of them. The Christian crusaders were also promised a life in Heaven (absent the virgins) should they fall on the battlefield, so we're not all that different after all. And do I have to mention the now-defunct selling of indulgences?

Dr. Vines was simply pointing out these distinctions. Since the media so often treats the Muslim religion with utter reverence — something we Baptists are unfamiliar with — he felt it was important that SBC members understand these distinctions. If those in the media were doing their jobs, Dr. Vines would have never felt it necessary to point out these disquieting elements of an enigmatic religion.

Just for the record, the media does not treat the Muslim religion with utter reverence. The media, as far as I can tell, has been trying to draw distinctions between Islam and militant Islamic fundamentalists, not unlike the distinction between Christians and the Ku Klux Klan. They're not one and the same, no matter how much Jerry wants America to believe all Muslims are bloodthirsty Christian-haters willing to blow themselves up in front of nightclubs at a moment's notice.

Ergun Caner observed an element of hypocrisy in the quest to portray Islam as a peaceful religion: "A so-called Christian who bombs an abortion clinic or shoots an abortionist and says God told him to do it does that act against the Bible," he said. "But the Muslim who commits acts of violence in jihad does so with the approval of Muhammad. … When September 11 happened, we were all shocked. But where was the international outrage when jihad killed three million people (Christian people, I might add) in Sudan?"

No level-headed dissertation via Falwell would be complete without an abortion reference, so there you go. As for the Sudanese mention, I have to agree that the situation there is grim, but that's a civil war, not terrorism.

A major element in the SBC — under the leadership of newly-elected president, Dr. Jack Graham — will be that of "Empowering Kingdom Growth." This major ministry initiative encourages SBC members to humbly seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. This means we will accelerate our efforts to take the Gospel to all people — including Muslims. We do not do this as a form of "hate," as some charge. We do this because we want others to know the peace that comes solely through a relationship with Jesus Christ — "For He Himself is our peace…" (Ephesians 2:14).

What the hell is this all about? Weren't we discussing how evil Islam is? Talk about changing the subject. If this were a movie, this would be where the actor haphazardly interjects a product placement.

Among other actions, SBC messengers also called for churches and civil authorities to hold accountable clergy members guilty of sexual abuse. Another resolution calls for President Bush to place a "high priority" on enacting a ban on partial-birth abortion. And the SBC's North American Mission Board challenged members to consider their personal role in the "Go" part of the Great Commission by personally participating in mission trips during 2003.

Cruising right along, we're treated to a passing reference to holding clergy members accountable for sexual abuse. You'd think he would have made a bit of a bigger deal out of this, what with all the ink he dedicated to "Muhammed marrying Aisha, the nine-year-old daughter of a friend." Apparently, the irony is lost on Jerry.

The Southern Baptist Convention is a denomination of 16 million people who are serious about their calling to be representatives of Jesus Christ. While we do not receive the kind and gentle treatment that most other socially-acceptable denominations enjoy, we are committed to boldly speaking Truth in love to the peoples of this world.

Awwwww, you don't receive the kind and gentle treatment of other denominations. Awwwww. That's just too fucking bad. Do you want some cheese and crackers with your whine? Welcome to the church of Tiffani Amber-Thiessen.

And I am gratified to have a part in this great effort.

*Whoosh! Whump! Squish!* I have virtually, through the magic of the Internet, inserted a dirty old boot in the cyber-ass of Jerry Falwell. And I feel much, much better.

Posted by Ryan at 01:35 PM | Comments (0)

"Forrest Gump VS Einstein" c.

"Forrest Gump VS Einstein" c. Ryan Rhodes, Oct. 9, 2002

There comes a time in every relationship when you have to ask, "who is smarter." Actually, if you know what's good for you, this question should never come up.

Instead, men should simply say that the woman is always smarter, and then slink away and mutter under his breath that he's actually smarter. From a safe distance of course. Like Siberia.

So it was, when my girlfriend visited recently, armed with a self-scoring I.Q. test for the two of us to take together, I had my reservations. If she should emerge with a higher IQ, I'd be left licking my egotistical wounds for just shy of eternity. If I should emerge with a higher IQ, however, I would run the risk of losing 30 IQ points when she hurls a candle at my noggin.

To protect my girlfriend's identity, and to save her the embarrassment of having to tell people she actually dates me, I shall refer to her simply as Galadriel Gonoril Goodbody, or just Gal for short.

Now, Gal was genuinely excited about taking an IQ test with me, and I guess I can't blame her. After all, right there on the cover, the test said it was "Fun To Take. . .Easy To Score." In retrospect, I think I read a bit too deeply into the "Easy To Score" aspect.

There were early indications that our approach to IQ test taking was probably not ideal. For example, we completed our first two IQ test segments while drinking margaritas at Applebees. This was in direct conflict with the test's suggestion that we "try to work in a comfortable, undisturbed atmosphere."

Eventually, the stress of the tests started to take its toll on me. During the word comprehension test, an exam I should have waltzed through, I found myself arguing with the questions. The test required that I pick out the word that is least like the others in a grouping. For example, in the grouping STAMP, LETTER, ENVELOPE, MAILMAN, mailman was least like the others because it is the only person in the group.

"Well, yes," I thought. "But really, the stamp, letter and envelope aren't going anywhere without the mailman. In fact, the mailman might be so upset about being so cruelly singled out as being ‘different,' he may just choose to lose the stamp, letter and envelope all together."

By the time I had finished arguing with myself over the mailman's rightful place in the grouping, I had precious little time to decide what didn't belong within CLOUDY, SUNNY, HUMID, OVERCAST. In Minnesota, don't they all apply?

One of the more difficult exams had to do with logic, perhaps because I'm such an illogical guy. Whatever the reason, I again found myself asking probing questions about the questions themselves.

For example, one question read, "June lives 3 miles north of Lois. Ann lives 3 miles south of Stacey. Stacey lives 3 miles east of June. Lois lives 3 miles west of Ann. In relationship to June, where does Ann live?"

Now, really, if they have such detailed information about these four women, couldn't they figure it out for themselves? Come to think of it, why are the whereabouts of these four women so well known? What kind of privacy-invading satellite technology is keeping such strict tabs on Lois, Ann, Stacey and June? And how come I don't know more about so many apparently single women living in such close proximity to each other?

By far, the most difficult test was the creativity exam, a devilish brainteaser that required me to think of a word that went with the three words presented on the test page. For the words MINE, DUST, and COIN, for example, the word that would go with all three is GOLD. But, alas, that was an easy one. When confronted by the grouping LEAVES, BAG, PARTY, I was left with no answers save for the mental image of some poor guy leaving a party consisting of people wearing bags.

After the final exam, I tallied up the scores for Gal and myself. I won't say who won, because I want to keep dating Gal, but I will say that I was somewhere between Forrest Gump and Albert Einstein.

I'll leave it up to you to decide where I fit best.

Posted by Ryan at 11:23 AM | Comments (0)

October 14, 2002

Meeting Prejudice Face-to-Face, and Getting

Meeting Prejudice Face-to-Face, and Getting the Hell Out of There

I should preface this entry by saying the Japanese are, by and large, among the most polite people I've ever encountered. As one good friend I met while living in Japan said, "You could meet a Japanese person that absolutely hates your guts, but he'll do everything in his power to help you out."

It's hard to believe it's been almost 10 full years since I lived in Japan, and it's even harder to believe how strong some of my memories still are. As a 17-year-old in a foreign land, I did a lot of mental growing up in a very short time, and I learned a lot about how the world actually works, although I didn't really know it at the time. Overall, I viewed Japan as a condensed version of America, except the population was shorter, spoke a different language, and liked foods that sent my "steak and potatoes" taste buds into a tailspin. "They eat what? Why? Where's their ketchup? Why does everything have a subtle taste of fish? I want to die!"

The first lesson I learned, abruptly, was that I was part of the minority. I was often the sole tall white person amidst a sea of Japanese train-goers. Most people would simple go about their daily routine, sleeping while standing up, or reading those ubiquitous Japanese comic books. Others, though, would stare at me, almost through me, with unwavering eyes that seemed at once to be curious, cautious, concerned, suspicious, entertained and sometimes ominous. Nothing ever came of those uncomfortable train staring incidents, beyond the uncomfortable awareness of my own glaring differences in a country that was already totally alien to me.

I quickly was able to shrug off the feeling of being different, and I made friends with many classmates hailing from a plethora of countries like Singapore, Sweden, Germany, China, Korea, Japan, Cananda (okay, that doesn't count) and even a couple of Americans. By mid-year, I was feeling pretty acclimated to Japan and my new surroundings, and I had a wanderlust that took me all around Tokyo, sometimes by myself, sometimes with others.

My wanderlust took me on many adventures, but a handful stick with me as the most memorable (including the woman who slapped me around and accused me of fathering her child), and the time I almost got the living hell kicked out of me for being white is top among them.

I had gotten off the train at a station a couple stops down from Shibuya. I can't remember why I chose that station, or even its name, although I seem to recall a heavenly smell of pastry wafting onto the train when the doors opened that just kind of beckoned me off the train. I ambled around the unfamiliar streets for about 45 minutes, poking my head into assorted shops, not really interested in anything. Eventually, I noticed a narrow alley that sported a conglomeration of tiny shops that I always found irresistable. I explored a couple and was about to go back to the station when I noticed a tiny noodle restaurant that looked interesting. I was hungry, and I thought a bowl of noodles would realy hit the spot.

I entered the dingy shop, and I immediately sensed that I had stepped into the one restaurant in Tokyo that did not want me there. All eyes, about 25 pairs in all, set on me with a vigilance not unlike lions awaiting the fall of a wounded impala. Being 17, stupid, and just a tad too trusting of human nature, I sauntered up to the counter and waited to be served. And I waited. And I waited. And then I waited some more. And then I raised my hand to signal the woman behind the counter, and that was all the invitation the gentleman sitting next to me needed to forcefully elbow me in the ribs and send me sprawling from my stool.

Despite the screaming pain in my ribs, I scrambled to me feet and quickly assessed the situation. The situation, it turned out, did not look good. Five men, including the brute with the bony elbow, were moving in on me spewing forth harsh staccato Japanese phrases of which I was unfamiliar. The one word I did understand, gaijin (foreigner), made my blood run cold, and I quickly started staggaring backwards to the exit. Just as I reached the door, I saw a fist coming at me from the corner of my left eye and I managed to duck just in time so the solid blow landed squarely on my shoulder. The force of the blow carried me the rest of the way to the door, which swung open quickly as my back slammed against it.

By that time, I was within an arm's reach of lead guy coming at me, and the last thing I saw as I turned and started running down the alley was his hand making a quick swipe to try and catch my shirt. He missed, and I was not about to let him or his friends get another chance to grab me and pummel me to their heart's content.

I ran, and I ran, and I just kept on running until my lungs insisted I give them a respite, a flight that brought me to a busy intersection where a throng of Japanese curiously regarded the arrival of the strange, haggard white newcomer clutching his bruised side and gasping for air. One concerned individual who spoke limited English approached and asked me if everything was okay. I assured him I was fine and he gave me a toothy, friendly smile. I followed the throng for about a block, replenishing my courage and my faith in human tolerance.

Although I never stopped at that station again, the memory of that narrow, dark alley and the shop full of narrow-minded and dark-hearted people stays with me to this day.

Posted by Ryan at 03:36 PM | Comments (0)

My Mind is a Monday

My Mind is a Monday Mush

Last night, as I tossed and turned, my mind swirled with a heap of weekend experiences that had to be filed away in that peculiar method unique to the human brain, i.e. dreams. Top among my nocturnal musings was a last ditch attempt by the sports area of my brain (called the athletica oblongata) to try and salvage the Twins' vanquished season. I awoke at 4 a.m. following a dream that replayed last night's ninth inning, an inning when, in my dream, the Twins rallied to win 25 to 13. "Nay," said my waking mind as I wiped away a fresh collection of eye boogers. "The Twins lost last night. They did not rally. Go back to bed and dream of scantily clad women, or the Comedy Central movie Porn N Chicken. By the way, I laughed heartily during Porn N Chicken, but only because I'm a guy a short attention span and a soft spot for low grade porn jokes.

And even as I contemplated such mundane things as the Twins and Porn N Chicken, the rest of the world was still digesting the latest round of terrorist activity, namely, an al Queda attack on a nightclub on the Indonesian island of Bali and a second round of shots fired at U.S. troops in Kuwait. These are both incredible victories for al Queda because, well, um, er, because. . . because. . . give me a second, it will come to me. . . because al Queda really gets off on coordinating meaningless attacks that result in death.

I guess I wasn't too surprised to hear of an attack in Indonesia. After all, that area has been vehemently denying terrorist activity, despite strong evidence to the contrary, since the U.S. started pointing fingers after 9/11. In addition to being a hotbed of terrorist activity, Indonesia is also a paradise that attracts Western interests. And everyone knows that Western interests and terrorist activity go together like Sonny and Cher or Dick Cheney and a Culver's Butter Burger. Suddenly, Indonesia is re-evaluating its stance that it not a haven for terrorists. The deaths of nearly 200 people and the threat of losing a lucrative tourism lifeline will do that to a country.

It's the shooting attacks in Kuwait that I find more ominous. Here's a country that was steamrolled by Iraq 11 years ago, its population raped, tortured and killed, its national wealth spirited away to Iraq, its oil wells torched. It should have nothing but gratitude to the U.N. and the U.S. for pulling its ass out of the fire. And yet, American forces are being shot at in Kuwait.

How do you reason with people who are totally incapable of reasonable thinking? How do you even begin to understand a cause that believes blowing up revelers streaming from a nightclub somehow constitutes a victory? For me, these people aren't terrifying because of their wanton acts of destruction. I'm more terrified that people can actually be conditioned to believe what they believe, and to reconcile those beliefs despite a world of common sense fluttering right before their eyes.

I don't know. Maybe I'm just upset that I'm at work on a Monday morning. Perhaps something more humorous will come creeping its way into my mind later today.

Posted by Ryan at 10:26 AM | Comments (0)

October 10, 2002

New Tapes Show Bin Laden

New Tapes Show Bin Laden Making New Threats and . . . Zzzzzzz

You know you've fully acclimated to the new reality of terror when a CNN headline reads U.S.: Latest tapes 'cause for concern', and you find it pretty hard to give a damn.

If it weren't for the 9/11 attacks, I'd be relatively certain that all al Queda does is make cheesy home videos and spew threatening rhetoric. Okay, guys, we get it already. Yes, yes, yes, you don't like Americans. Yes, we're fully aware that you're planning new strikes. YES, we're now totally cognizant of all your bat-shit ideals and your loose-knit network of radicals who are so brainwashed they think heaven consists entirely of virgins who actually will break their chastity for lazy and insane men who voluntarily blow themselves up. Now, please, shut up! I don't care any more! I am hereby sticking my fingers deeply in my ears and singing a rendition of LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA!

In the latest installment of Al Queda's Most Threatening Home Videos, we're treated to two new releases, one featuring Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's No. 2 man, as if that's somehow a flattering distinction (the next time I take a #2, I'm going to call it "pinching an al-Zawahiri), and the other tape reportedly features Osama bin Laden himself. You may remember bin Laden from such classic cinematic masterpieces as I Hate America and I Still Hate America.

And how are the political and military geniuses in Washington D.C. responding to these new tapes? You'll be relieved to know that officials said the two messages are "cause for concern" and that the government is in a "period of increased concern" about the threat to the nation. Although unease about new attacks has gone up and down several times since September 11, they said this is "definitely a peak."

Oh, good, our government is responding with a period of increased concern. *whew* I'm glad they're so proactive about notching up the concern. They used to be so stingy with the concern, but now it's definitely at a peak. It's refreshing to see the wheels of government in action. If you were to hang around the steps of the Capitol, I'm sure every face you see will be etched with an increased level of concern. Democrats and Republicans alike will surely be sporting furrowed brows and squinty concerned eyes.

On the tape, which was released Tuesday, the speaker threatens fresh attacks against the United States, its economy and its allies.

The above sentence is a standard addition that is plugged into all news articles regarding newly released al Queda tapes, except that Tuesday is replaced with XXXs. For example, "On the tape, which was released XXX.

Posted by Ryan at 04:15 PM | Comments (0)

Waking Up On the Floor

Waking Up On the Floor

I don't normally walk in my sleep, although there's a slim chance that, when in unfamiliar surroundings, I'll wander around in unconscious locomotion. Apparently, the new carpet adorning the basement and my room constitutes unfamiliar surroundings, because this morning I awoke on the basement floor without pillows or blankets. Just me, laid out on my back, with my hands clasped across my chest in true coffin-corpse fashion, in the middle of the basement floor, well away from my bedroom. I'd probably still be sleeping there if it weren't for my alarm clock blaring away at 6 a.m.

It's a disconcerting feeling to wake up where you don't expect to wake up. I was thinking, "Ahhhhh, that was a good night's sleep, now it's time for work. . . where the hell am I? I'm on the basement floor? What the fuck?"

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I don't trust my unconscious mind. What was it thinking? Why would it honestly prefer the basement floor to my nice warm bed?

What the fuck?

Posted by Ryan at 11:14 AM | Comments (0)

"Gambling can be Such a

"Gambling can be Such a Gamble" c. Ryan Rhodes, April 19, 2001

I'm not an avid gambler, but I'm willing to bet good money that I gamble more than is probably necessary. Any takers?

Actually, I only invest in about two or three lottery tickets a month, and I may visit a casino once every three months or so. However, given the fact that I rarely, very rarely, come away from a gambling experience with more money in my wallet than when I started, I think there's a safe argument to be made that I should stay away from gambling venues all together.

At any given moment of gambling weakness, I may depart from anywhere between $5 and $40. Now, this is not necessarily a large sum of money. Truth be told, I suffer more monetary loss from an impulse purchase at Best Buy or a particularly serious weekend of saloon celebrations (let me just take a moment to congratulate myself on the brilliant method by which I just made drinking at a bar sound almost classy).

Still, when it comes to gambling, there's a nagging burn to the knowledge that I spent up to $40 on, well, absolutely nothing. At least when I purchase an impulse item at Best Buy, I have a CD or a computer game to show for it. Even after a weekend of saloon celebrations, I can at least acknowledge my splitting headache and nausea as some sort of return on my investment. But, with gambling, I had $40, and now I don't. Where did it go? What did I buy? Air?

The more I think about it, the more I realize that it's not the loss of money that irritates me. Rather, it's the fact that I was enticed by the draw of easy money that makes me feel bad. After 26 years, you would think I would know better than to believe there's such a thing as easy money: well, except for hitting my parents up for a few dollars; that's still pretty easy.

However, it is, indeed, the appeal of making easy money that prompts me to buy a lottery card or visit a casino. Even more alluring than the thought of getting something for nothing is the imaginative world I escape into as I think about all the things I'll do if I do get something for nothing.

Take lottery scratch tickets, for example. When I have a considerably long drive ahead of me (anything over an hour is pretty long), I'll swing into the local Kwik Trip and purchase a $5 scratch ticket. I'll then place the little piece of cardboard in the passenger seat and, for the entire drive, I'll just sit and conjure up all sorts of big thoughts about what I would do if I won $100,000. And I would do big things, too. I'd get $100,000 in quarters and give my car the best darned cleaning ever. Or, I'd get all $1 bills and make 100,000 bank deposits. Yeah, that might be fun.

Casino visits, however, are very rarely carefree excursions. These are the big $40 trips that can make or break me. Of course, $40 won't break me financially, but for some reason my stress level jumps 300 percent in a casino. There's something disconcerting about all the whirling lights and bleeps and pings and whistles of the slot machines. It's like I'm immediately surrounded by hundreds of miniature ambulances. That's pretty stressful.

I don't particularly like slot machine gambling, unless I win of course. Overall, slot machines just seem too cold and detached. It's like putting money in the mouth of one of my ex-girlfriends.

Rather, I prefer the human component of roulette or blackjack tables. There's a sense of genuine opportunity when my money is matched against an actual person, a person who makes the same mistakes as I do, or so I hope.

Now, I'm not a very superstitious person, knock on wood, but I notice that little disconcerting personality traits surface the longer I stay at a casino. If I win a hand of blackjack, for example, I'll be sure that my initial stack of chips remains exactly the same until I eventually lose a hand, at which point I'll restack my chips because, obviously, the previous stacking method ran out of luck. Or, if I happen to remember that I scratched my armpit prior to a winning hand, I'll be sure to scratch that same armpit for the following hand. The same rule applies to groin scratches. In retrospect, it's probably a good thing that I don't visit casinos on a regular basis.

Now, given the fact that gambling often leads to an emptier wallet and a plethora of questionable personality traits, I should make a conscious effort to swear off gambling forever.

But, I wouldn't bet on it.

Posted by Ryan at 12:39 AM | Comments (0)

October 09, 2002

I Don't Understand Large Vehicles

I Don't Understand Large Vehicles

So, I ducked out of work this morning and drove to a local car wash, where I spent $30 to get my vehicle all nice and spiffy clean, because, you see, for the past three weeks I've been driving a bonafide dirtmobile. I just haven't had the time to devote my cleansing abilities to my Cadillac, so dirt in large quantities built up both within and without. Rather than allow even more filth to accumulate, I went the expensive route and had someone else give my car a thorough wash down.

As I was standing there, watching the sloppy, rotating and swishing motions of the soapy cloth strips splash across automobiles as they traversed the cleansing tunnel, I saw the biggest personal vehicle I had every laid eyes on. It was a Cadillac Escalade, an SUV for people who bathe in $100 bills and rinse off in gold confetti. This thing was HUGE. What sick automotive designer could have possibly conjured such a garish road hog? Whoever he was, chances are he has a small penis and is compensating through his automotive design ideas. I sometimes think my Cadillac Eldorado (which I bought only after the grandfather of a good friend of mine passed away and I got a good deal on) is large, but this monstrosity looked like something Gulliver would use to level Lilliputian villages.

So I'm still standing there, mouth agape as the behemoth machine lumbers to a stop and loud fans labor to dry every last inch of the chunk of metal freakishness, when I start to ponder who could possibly own such a vehicle. I was envisioning a pituitary giant, perhaps 8'9" tall, striding forth to claim his vehicle, or perhaps some visiting king from the country of Oilandia. Surely someone of immense stature must own a beastly machine such as this.

I heard a faint voice from behind me, and I turned to see an older gentleman, perhaps 73 years of age, shuffle over to claim his Escalade. What the hell? This frail septuagenarian owns a vehicle 3,000 times his own body mass? I swear, the older people get, the bigger their vehicles get. I'm convinced that most people who reach their 100s simply start driving trains.

After considerable effort, the old man hoisted himself into the driver's seat, strapped himself in, and promptly put the vehicle in reverse, smacking an unsuspecting car wash worker and knocking him to the ground. Without acknowledging his error, grandpa shifted back into drive and steered his way back onto the road, no doubt bound for a grand American adventure.

Or, more than likely, a nap.

Posted by Ryan at 02:00 PM | Comments (0)

October 08, 2002

How Does One Train a

How Does One Train a Kamikaze Pilot?

According to a recent news item from my beloved Oddly Enough News, Kamikaze Instructor Meets War Veterans. Now here's a head-scratcher of a question for you: How does one train a kamikaze pilot?

Just by virtue of the fact that the teacher was alive, that would seem that he was, at the very least, a failed kamikaze pilot, not the type of guy you want teaching a class filled with aspiring kamikazes. Granted, it's probably much easier to learn kamikaze techniques from a living teacher than a corpse, but I'd prefer to learn from the best rather than some joker who didn't even have the common decency to slam an airplane into the broadside of a battleship himself. I can just imagine a classroom full of incredulous students.

KAMIKAZE INSTRUCTOR: Now, pay attention class and open your kamikaze manuals to page 36. Read your books carefully because this knowledge could very well save your life one day. . .er. . . I mean. On second thought, let's put our books down and I'll write on the board.

KAMIKAZE STUDENT #1 *whispering to neighbor*: This guy doesn't know what he's talking about. Look at him up there, breathing air, with a pulse. He's no kamikaze pilot.

KAMIKAZE STUDENT #2: I know what you mean. My four brothers all died gloriously last week. Each one of them had more kamikaze knowledge in their little fingers than this guy will ever have.

KAMIKAZE INSTRUCTOR: Is there a problem back there? Maybe you'd like to come up here and teach the class. No? Then I suggest you pay attention. Now, as I was saying, the landing gear must be in a locked position prior to landing and. . . you know what? Now that I think about it, the landing gear really doesn't apply to this class.

KAMIKAZE STUDENT #1: Man, I can't stand this guy. I'd plunge a blade into my abdomen and sever my own internal organs right now if it were up to me. Just get me up in the air so I can crash and explode already. This class is so pointless.

KAMIKAZE INSTRUCTOR: Okay, I've had just about enough of your talking back there. There are some students in this class who really want to learn how to die properly, but you're disrupting everything with all your talk. Maybe you're telling me you want to take a test. Is that it? Well, I can certainly accomodate you.

KAMIKAZE online-porn.jpg">CLASS: *groan*

Posted by Ryan at 02:39 PM | Comments (0)

Pulling Up the Roomie's Carpet

Pulling Up the Roomie's Carpet

Despite the sexual innuendo inherent in the heading, let me assure you I did not spend last night plucking my roommate's pubic hair. Although, if she were to ask for my assistance in such a task, I would certainly lend a hand, literally. Amy, if you're reading this, I sincerely apologize for the preceeding two sentences.

Nay, last night's festivities, after I went for my five mile run and ingested hearty cuisine from Taco Bell, involved disassembling my room, moving out furniture, and ripping up carpet in preparation for the arrival of new carpet today. That's right, we're getting a whole new basement full of brand new carpet today! I'm so excited, I can barely sit perfectly still and type magazine articles for eight straight hours. Actually, I have trouble doing that every day, but this time I have an excuse.

The basement has been without carpet since Amy had an expensive beaver drainage system installed late in July. For the record, I can't believe this entry has mentioned pubic hair, carpet, Taco Bell and beaver system, yet has nothing to do with sex. My room alone remained carpeted while Amy sought out a good carpet deal.

So, last night, I set about cleaning out my room, a minor nuisance of a task that really didn't take too long, owing primarily to my overall lack of worldly goods. It's a sad testimony to existence when your most valuable posessions are, in order, your car, your computer, your clothes, your bed, and finally, your two pieces of pre-fabricated furniture. I should really get out there and start buying stuff.

Once my room was cleared out, Amy and I set about pulling up the carpet. Now, I knew that the room's previous occupant had owned a dog, but I wasn't prepared for the harsh reminder that wafted to my nostrils when the first corner was pulled up. The stench of long-dormant dog pee singed our faces like flames leaping up from a gasoline fire. The more we rolled the carpet, the more potent the odor became. We also became aware of moldy patches growing on the matting directly below the carpet, sure indicators of a busy canine bladder.

It was then that a chilling realization came over me. This was the same carpet I sat on and ate countless meals while watching television! This was the same carpet on which I did push-ups and sit-ups! This was the same carpet I laid half naked on while getting a massage! The health hazards alone were staggering.

Amy and I carried the pee-laden carpet roll up the stairs and deposited it in the garage, and I hurriedly jaunted to the bathroom to take a much-needed shower.

So, yeah, we're getting new carpet installed today.

Thank God.

Posted by Ryan at 09:47 AM | Comments (0)

October 06, 2002

Me In Action and Weekend

Me In Action and Weekend Randomness

There's nothing I like better than seeing pictures of me kicking ass. Actually, there are a lot of things I like better than that, but as I sit here in front of my computer without either a naked female in my bed or a $400 bottle of cognac, I guess pictures of me kicking ass will have to do.

"What the hell is he talking about?" you ask.

"Shut up and let me finish," I respond.

My martial arts studio has updated its Web site to include pictures of little old me demonstrating some techniques. For those of you with an insatiable yen to ogle yet more pictures of my smoking hot specimen of male hunkiness body, you can click here. Then click the Hapkido link and scroll down to the pictures of the guy with the shaved head being mean. That would be me. Great googily moogily I'm good looking. I'm also very modest. There are also some video clips of me kicking ass and getting my ass kicked, but I can't for the life of me figure out how to view the damned things. But enough of this shameless self-promotion.

My girlfriend is an absolute junkie when it comes to the TLC program "Trading Spaces." For those not familiar with the program, let me offer up the two second synopsis: Caffeinated neighbors agree to swap a room in their houses so equally caffeinated interior decorators can come in and put their effeminate touch to the selected room. The neighbors follow the designers orders and they have two days to make the room fit the designer's vision. The rooms are then unveiled, and the neighbors either jump up and down in enthusiastic approval or they sit in a corner and cry. Melissa and I tend to favor the crying reaction, because we're both sadistic like that. Anyway, the show features two carpenters who are ordered around by the designers to produce exquisite furniture in little or not time. One carpenter is a guy named Ty and the other is a girl named Amy. I practically have to unfurl a towel under Melissa whenever Ty is featured just to catch her drool. I'm partial to Amy, because she has titanic breasts and looks damned hot in a tool belt. Well, as I read the Post-Bulletin (Rochester's answer to lazy journalism), I learned that Ty would be speaking at the 2002 Women's Fall Expo at the Mayo Civic Center, right here in Rochester, on Saturday, Oct. 5. I informed Mel of this and suggested we go see Sir Ty. I had never before been to a Women's Expo, owing primarily to my distinction as a male. I guess I enjoyed myself, but I was stunned by just how much of a following Ty has. The expo floor was crammed with women, young and old, who were practically sweating beneath their silks just to get a glimpse of him. I don't think it's too much to ask that I get the same reaction wherever I go, but alas, the female species has yet to acknowledge just how hot I am. The poor lasses. Mel seemed to enjoy herself, and that was the main thing. I also had the opportunity to see the most God-awful hairdo ever to defile a female head. I didn't know who she was, but the poor confused creature actually thought she looked good, when in fact her hair looked like a gigantic, ratty red ostrich nest. Do ostriches make nests? It doesn't matter. If they do, they likely resembe that woman's hair.

Today (Sunday), I played in a 27 hole golf tournament. Now, remember, this is Oct. 6 in Minnesota, a time when, although not necessarily cold, it is definitely not thong weather. Today's Minnesota weather menu featured temperatures soaring to 42 degrees, with complementary winds comparable to an F5 tornado or Oprah Winfrey and Roseanne breaking wind simultaneously. *shudder* What a horrible analogy. Suffice it to say, it was gusty and cold enough to make my final golf tournament of the year a miserable ordeal. And an ordeal it was. My golfing partner, Jim, was foolhardy enough to say, "Well, at least it's not raining." As if on cue, a light drizzle began to fall. Golf balls did not behave as golf balls should today. After seven hours of enduring this maddening cryogenics experiment, I wanted nothing more than to see the Minnesota Twins beat the Oakland Athletics from the warmth of my own home. The Twins won 5 to 4 after a cliffhanger ninth inning. Awesome.

Posted by Ryan at 09:30 PM | Comments (0)

October 04, 2002

Putting the FUN back in

"The Lighter Side of Funerals" c. Ryan Rhodes, Sept. 23, 2002

It's widely understood that there's very little to laugh about when it comes to death and funerals. Traditionally, funerals are somber affairs, with all sorts of weeping and emotional memorial tributes.

According to a Sept. 17 Reuters news item out of Rome, Italy, however, there are apparently some enterprising individuals determined to put the fun back in funeral.

To quote the article, death is hardly something to look forward to, but one Italian funeral home is trying to make the afterlife a tad more tempting by using bikini-clad women to sell its coffins. Cisa srl, a Rome-based funeral home and coffin factory, features its hand-crafted caskets alongside models sipping champagne or reclining seductively on the lids.

Now, when I first read this story, I could scarcely believe it. So, I logged onto the Cisa Web site to see for myself. I assure you, my desire to peruse the site had everything to do with journalistic curiosity and nothing to do with my desire to see bikini-clad women sipping champagne and reclining seductively.

Lo and behold, with a couple clicks of the mouse, I was confronted with exquisitely carved coffins complemented by women wearing next to practically beckoning me to the afterlife.

One casket, called the Madonna, includes brilliantly chiseled features and perfect flowing curves. And the casket really isn't that bad either.

Upon closer inspection, it was revealed that the images of female models are, in fact, superimposed over photos of the caskets.

With a little more journalistic sleuthing, I discovered that at least one model, Asia Carrera, is a big name in the adult film industry. I won't say exactly how I uncovered this tidbit of information. Suffice it to say, it was some of the most fulfilling research I've ever done in my entire life.

"We wanted to make the whole idea of picking your coffin less serious, maybe even make people laugh a bit," Giuseppe Tenara, one of the partners, said.

I don't know if Cisa's unique casket marketing strategy will be successful, but if it is, I'm relatively certain the enterprise will ensure a long line of happy stiffs, er, customers. Then again, I could be wrong. Still, not all clients have been charmed.

"Some people are scandalized, but we just explain that we're trying to make people laugh," Tenara said.

For those corpses that really want to see the world rather than scantily clad women, we turn to yet another Sept. 17 Reuters article, this time out of San Jose, Calif.

The body of a California man headed for burial in his native Mexico mistakenly ended up in Greece and weeping relatives only discovered the mix-up when they opened the casket and found a stranger inside.

Now, this is no minor-league misplacement of Delta Airlines luggage. In this columnist's opinion, a mix-up such as this requires a monumental level of incompetence.

BAGGAGE HANDLER #1: So, anyway, Chuck. There I was in a traffic jam yesterday when this one guy cuts me off. I was so mad, I got out of my car and. . .

BAGGAGE HANDLER #2: Whoa! Hold on, Tony! Did you check the destination on that casket? I think it's supposed to go to Mexico, not Greece.

BAGGAGE HANDLER #1: Greece. Mexico. What's the difference? So, anyway, I got out of my car and. . .

Delta spokeswoman Peggy Estes said on Monday the airline was conducting an investigation to determine whether proper procedures for transporting human remains were followed.

I haven't really been brushing up on my procedures for transporting human remains, but I'm pretty sure that, if a body ends up half-a-world away from its intended destination, someone took some liberties with the procedures somewhere along the line.

Or, perhaps the wayward corpse was once heard to say during his living years that "I'll journey to Greece over my dead body."

Then again, maybe, just maybe, he had heard that there's some pretty racy coffins in Italy.

I guess we'll never know. But will Shakira know? Here's a list of celebrities in the hopes I boost my Web traffic. Sarah Chalke. Sarah Chalke. Ciara. Carrie Underwood. Carrie Underwood. Catherine Zeta Jones. Catherine Zeta Jones. Alison Angel. Dawson Miller. Raylene Richards. Sarah Chalke. Sarah Chalke.

Posted by Ryan at 11:47 AM | Comments (0)

blogging? It's Like This. .

blogging? It's Like This. . .

I feel compelled to splash yet more black text against this monotonous turquoise background, and I have no idea why. Well, part of the reason is because it's one of a multitude of distractions that beckon me away from actual work productivity.

ME: Okay, I must focus. I must complete this 3,000 word article about a META study that features favorable findings about iSeries and pSeries and. . . hmmmm, I wonder what the news headlines are today. I think I'll check. Huh. We're still talking about invading Iraq. We've been doing that for how long? I know the pen is supposed to be mightier than the sword, but it seems like we're wasting a lot of money on ink here. Hmmm, as long as I'm online, I should check to see what Lileks and Layne and Minx and Tammy and all the other bloggers have to say today. Oooh, I should quick catch up on Dave Barry and see what his latest column was about. Ah, that was funny. Where was I? Oh, yes, work. I was going to do some work. But first, I should quick check my blog for comments. You know what? As long as I'm here, I think I'll click on the Blogger link and write something. I'd hate to deny my writing muse. There, I updated my blog. Huh, would you look at that, it's time for lunch. I'll really focus on work when I get back in the office, but I'm hungry right now.

And so it goes. I think it's a fair estimation that my workday consists of 70 percent slacking and 30 percent actual productivity. But hey, I guess I get all my work done by deadline, so I must be doing something right.

Posted by Ryan at 11:14 AM | Comments (1)

Girlfriend haiku Her hair crimson

Girlfriend haiku

Her hair crimson red
Emerging from the shower
Yes, she is stunning

Posted by Ryan at 12:18 AM | Comments (0)

October 03, 2002

Arrrrr, Blow Me Down I'm

Arrrrr, Blow Me Down

I'm a print journalist. I've always been a print journalist, an unseen apparition conjuring the written word for newspapers and magazines, preferring to remain anonymous while my writing speaks for itself.

I'm often perplexed by the antics of broadcast journalists. I'm not talking about the revered and stoic talking heads like Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings and Dan Rather. They at least have the common decency to sit in one place and read the day's news to us, an eager tribal crowd gathered around the flickering flames of the television campfire, soaking in the wisdom and words of our beloved tribal elder Dan "Speaks The Truth" Rather.

It's the stunt journalists who bother me, the Ashleigh Banfield's of the world, shameless self-promoters who will do practically anything to get a dramatic shot of something that is, by and large, not that dramatic. In Banfield's case, she climbed the Brooklyn Bridge in a pathetic attempt to show the Banfield-starved masses that American suspension bridges are *gasp* vulnerable to terrorist attack. I really didn't have to see Ashleigh huff and puff her way to the top of a bridge to know that bridges are potential terrorist targets. Although, truth be told, I probably had several small sexual fantasies as I watched her huff and puff. She is disturbingly cute after all.

But, we don't have to just look and gape and ogle and drool over Ashleigh Banfield to see pointless stunt journalism in action. Take the huge, massive, terrifying currently unfolding story of the minor hurricane Lili. No sooner had the storm hit U.S. shores, than news crews were standing on the wharves, intent on getting that wind-blown, driving rain camera shot that proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that hurricanes consist of strong winds and driving rains. Um, I actually already knew that. I don't need to see a poncho-wearing newscaster with rain spattered spectacles telling me exactly what I already know. Yet there they stand, wind whipping by so fast, you can barely hear what they're trying to scream into the camera.

DRENCHED NEWSCASTER: As you can see behind me, Lili is a truly dangerous storm! I was almost decapitated a moment ago by an airborne cat clawing desperately at the air! You'll notice that my poncho is flapping violently! That's because Lili is packing strong gusts of wind! Wind, as you know, is air moving at a high velocity in a certain direction! I'm able to stay firmly planted on this wharf because I have lashed myself to this wooden pole! As an added precaution, I hammered a 30 inch spike through the pole and inserted it into my anus! You can't take chances with powerful winds like these!

Can't they just set up a camera on the beach and deliver the news from the warmth and dryness of the newsroom? It seems perfectly reasonable to me. I mean seriously, if they're going to go to such extremes to show us a powerful maritime storm, they should pull out all the stops and start talking like an old salt of the sea.

DRENCHED PIRATE NEWSCASTER: Arrrrr! We be having a bit of what me mateys call a gale! Ye see behind me an angry sea, a sea that eats sailors for dinner the way a scurvy dog that hasn't eaten in days laps up its own droppings. Arrrrr! Thar be a lot of wind a'blowin here. The last time I got blown around like this at sea was when that saucy little whore tried stowin' away on me ship. Lili was her name!

Posted by Ryan at 04:56 PM | Comments (1)

October 02, 2002

"Wart of the Worlds" c.

"Wart of the Worlds" c. Ryan Rhodes, Sept. 30, 2002

When I was in elementary school, I forget which grade exactly, I had 32 individual warts on my left hand. You read that right. I had 32 individual warts on my left hand, all at one time. My left hand looked more like a miniature mountain range than a human appendage.

I won't lie to you, it was difficult to traverse the brutal cultural landscape of elementary school while sporting a left hand that looked fresh from a toxic waste accident. Even peers sporting childhood warts of their own were shocked at the sheer number of warty bumps decorating my hand.

It was my own fault, really. When my first wart sprouted in the direct center of my palm, just under the middle finger, I regarded it as a novelty that needed to be played with, and by played with I mean I jabbed at it repeatedly with a sewing needle. In my mind, I figured that, if I poked deeply and frequently enough, and drew a satisfactory amount of blood, the wart would simply surrender and leave my hand. It was this type of reasoning that ensured I would never, in any way, shape or form, enter the medical profession.

As it was, all my incessant jabbing and poking apparently just made the wart mad. It grew to astounding dimensions, so much so that I sometimes wondered if I was sprouting a new finger.

Eventually, I became aware of other warts springing forth from the base of Mt. Wartmore. In a few short months, entire communities of warts took hold on my tiny hand. No portion of fleshy hand real estate was spared. I had warts all over my palm, on my fingers, and even on the webbing at the base of each finger. In all, 32 warts called my hand home.

How do I know I had 32 warts? Because, one day during school, I took a black pen and put an X over each wart as I counted it, ensuring each wart would be counted once. If only the state of Florida had access to my state-of-the-art wart counting system, we never would have had the whole presidential election debacle of 2000.

I was actually more amused by my 32 warts than anything else. At that age, the wives' tale about toads peeing on you being responsible for warts was not so much a deterrent as it was an invitation to pick toads up and squeeze them. Therefore, I was actually somewhat proud of my warts for awhile.

It wasn't until we started our dance unit in gym that I realized girls did not want to hold hands with Warty McWarts-a-Lot. Suddenly, my hefty handful of warts didn't seem quite as cool. So, my mother bought me a product called Compound W in a belated attempt to combat my wart infestation.

Because covering 32 warts with Compound W would have been a Herculean task, and because coating them all on a regular basis with the expensive liquid would have surely put my family in bankruptcy, I opted to concentrate my efforts on the mother wart that started all the madness in the first place.

Slowly, very slowly, the great wart volcano in the center of my hand started to shrink, and it eventually disappeared all together. The rest of the warts, now without a larger-than-life leader, just kind of laid down their swords and vanished as well.

I remained wart free from elementary school on. . .until about two months ago. As I sat at my computer one night, I realized I had a strange bump on my right thumb. I inspected the yellowish bump and dismissed it as a callous, the result of repetitive tapping of the space bar.

As the callous became larger and more uncomfortable, however, I started to suspect the mother wart from all those years back may have migrated to my right thumb, intent on re-establishing her 32 wart empire.

Determined to settle my own personal argument as to whether the mound on my thumb was a callous or a wart, I consulted numerous medical Web sites until I found a picture of both. Imagine my surprise when I saw an exact replica of my thumb bump, apparently on someone else's hand! There could be no doubt about it. The mother wart had returned.

So, I went out and purchased a bottle of trusty Compound W, intent on doing battle with the mother wart before she could spawn 31 offspring.

As I unscrewed the cap and the familiar alcohol-heavy odor of the wart weapon wafted noseward, I knew I was going to win this war before it started.

And even if Compound W doesn't work, I think I have a sewing needle sitting around here someplace.

Posted by Ryan at 10:54 AM | Comments (2)

October 01, 2002

Message Sparring With Mandy Mandy

Message Sparring With Mandy

Mandy says: your blog does not like me any more

Mandy says: never mind--it finally let me in

Ryan says: It was giving me problems earlier today, but it's fine now.

Ryan says: I activated the patented Mandy filter.

Mandy says: that's not very nice

Mandy says: i even left a comment

Ryan says: I see that. Your spelling has improved dramatically.

Mandy says: i have always known how to spell

Mandy says: it's typing that causes the problem

Mandy says: i was spelling bee queen

Ryan says: Yes, but Texas spelling is totally different than regular spelling.

Mandy says: oh sheesh--and btw, does the gf know about the blog?

Ryan says: Normal people spell things like "PROFESSIONAL"

Ryan says: In Texas, however, it becomes "PROFESSIONY'ALL"

Mandy says: are you ragging on my texan status now?

Mandy says: is nothing sacred?

Ryan says: Indeed.

Ryan says: Hmmm, this conversation would make a great blog entry.

Mandy says: next thing i know, you are going to make fun of republicans

Ryan says: Don't even get me started on those environmental rapists.

Mandy says: or our very own Dubya

Ryan says: The W stands for WAR!

Mandy says: maybe he wasn't the best example.

Ryan says: Is he the best example for anything?

Mandy says: um, we make damn good bar-b-que and i don't have to scrape my windshield in winter. 2 points for texas

Ryan says: You have scorpions and the Dallas Cowboys. Points nullified.

Mandy says: Dallas has the Cowboys, no one else here claims them.

Mandy says: and we don't have scorpions in the city

Mandy says: are we back to the stereotype of tractors, boots, hats, oil rigs, etc.?

Ryan says: Don't forget chewing tobacco and shotgun racks in trucks.

Mandy says: how could i forget?

Mandy says: the aforementioned requirements only apply to the country folk as stated in the rulebook on page 37, clause C

Ryan says: Ah, yes, in the classic book, "Texas For Dummies," which is a redundant title when you think about it.


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