December 26, 2002

Questioning Credit Cards

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.

Posted by Ryan at 12:44 AM | Comments (0)

December 24, 2002

Not Quite a Norman Rockwell

Not Quite a Norman Rockwell Christmas

Last night I attended a Christmas gathering with my girlfriend's family, an unusual holiday observance that included the traditional Christmas ham and gift exchanging, and the not-so-traditional divorced father and mother and the father's live-in boyfriend.

I was the intruder, of course, the newcomer trying to make himself comfortable amidst a sea of relative strangers, while at the same time acknowledging that the two other men in the room spoke with audible lisps that made the whole experience seem like a Saturday Night Live skit. "Hereth a prethent for Ryan. Ryan, thith oneth for you."

A funny thing about dating a girl with a gay father: rather than trying to make a good impression to validate my dating his daughter, I find myself wondering whether the father and his boyfriend think I'm cute. I figure, if they think I'm cute, I've already won them over. Rather than sitting across from a stern father sipping cognac ready to grill me with a series of tough questions, I can defuse the situation by wearing tight pants and a tight tee shirt.

Despite the surreal feel, I really did enjoy myself, and everyone went out of their way to make me feel comfortable, and the meal was quite delicious. I received far more gifts than I really should have, and I felt a pang of guilt that I didn't buy more for everyone else, even though I had no way of knowing that I was going to receive even one gift, let alone several.

Gift opening was followed with a strange silence, save for the television broadcasting Third Watch followed by Crossing Jordan, two shows that really didn't seem to mesh with the festive holiday season. Somehow a show about sexual assault followed by a show featuring a coroner just doesn't leave one with Jingle Bells ringing in the ears.

Come 10 p.m., my girlfriend and I took our leave, and we went to Applebees for a couple of drinks, followed by a return home for some, ah, additional holiday cheer. No, it wasn't traditional, but what constitutes tradtional nowadays anyway?

Here's hoping that all who read this enjoy a wonderful and safe holiday season. I'm off to Hawaii in a couple of days, where I may or may not find the time and means by which to blog.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Years to you all.

Posted by Ryan at 11:35 AM | Comments (0)

December 23, 2002

These Two Day Work Weeks

These Two Day Work Weeks Are Killing Me

It's quiet. Too quiet.

A funny thing about Christmas landing on a Wednesday, the vast majority of IBM employees simply opt out of the rest of the week, making for an abandoned quality to the hallways. I'll occasionally hear a door close in the distance, and there are a few cars parked outside, but for the most part I have the place to myself. I'm Sam Palmisano for a day, or two days, although I'm housed in a much shittier office I'm betting.

Lingering anxiety still looms over the impending holiday, of course. I'm worried that the gifts I bought the girlfriend are adequate, and I still have to wrap them, even though we'll be opening them tonight. Additional anxiety looms due to the sexual misfortune we endured last week when, unknown to us, a condom broke, a first for both of us. For the record, there is nothing Supra about Trojan Supra. The brand has been forever removed from my list of acceptable condoms, and I threw the remaining three brittle baby blockers in the trash. I'm pissed. And worried. And so is she. Never before have I been so anxiously awaiting a woman's period. It will be difficult to enjoy my upcoming Hawaii vacation if she hasn't started her cycle by Thursday.

Yes, Thursday, the magical day I shall once again board an airplane bound for Mauii. This will be my seventh holiday journey to the tropical paradise of Hawaii, and I'm looking forward to sun, surf, and everything else that is NOT a Minnesota winter. My father has already stated his intent to dismantle me on the golf course, and I'm ready to let him try. Golfing in Mauii is an experience not to be missed, and I'm looking forward to every single swing of the club.

Between then and now, however, work days must be completed, gifts must be wrapped, and the girlfriend's family must be shmoozed with. I'm not a fan of shmoozing, but it must be done, with a smile if possible. Other than that, it's Monday. All day. And there is work yet to do.

Posted by Ryan at 11:06 AM | Comments (0)

December 20, 2002

"Oh, The Things I've Inhaled,"

"Oh, The Things I've Inhaled," c. Ryan Rhodes, Dec. 16, 2002

A friend of mine recently related the harrowing tale of how his young son accidentally got a pen cap stuck in his nose.

I won't go into all the details, because the process of getting a pen cap stuck in one's nose is really pretty self-explanatory. You take a pen cap, place it in your nose, and inhale. Everything from that point on is a doctor's visit followed by heaps of embarrassment.

I didn't pass judgment on my friend's young son, primarily because, even though I've never gotten a pen cap stuck in my nose, I live with the daily belief that it's just a matter of time before I do. I'm only partially kidding here. Given my track record for inhaling stupid things, I don't think getting a pen cap lodged in my nose is that big of a stretch.

When I was fairly young, well, old enough to know better, but fairly young all the same, I briefly got a button stuck in my nose.

I was with my mother grocery shopping, and I was enduring the interminable waiting process of going through the check-out aisle. For a child, waiting in the check-out aisle is akin to time standing still. When I wasn't asking my mother to "buy me this," I was fidgeting with everything and anything within reach.

Well, on that particular outing, I noticed a loose button on my shirt, and with a few quick tugs, I liberated it from its few remaining threads. I contented myself with my new toy as any male child would: I repeatedly placed it in my nose and huffed it out forcefully back into my palm. For me, this qualified as great fun. Of course, you can see the inevitable conclusion of such a pastime.

Sure enough, as I got braver and braver, the button went further and further up my nose, until. . . voila, it wouldn't come out. Despite my best nasal wailing, I couldn't dislodge the button from my left nostril. My mother eventually asked me if everything was all right and, even though I had my pinkie buried knuckle deep in my nose trying to pick out the button, I would admit to nothing.

Finally, as my mother and I made our way to the exit, I closed my right nostril, said a silent prayer, and initiated the hardest farmer blow I could muster. A two second high-pitch squeak ensued, followed by the glorious release of the button, which launched about six feet and came to rest in a candy display. I like to think it settled in amongst the Snickers bars, but I'll never know.

Not all inhalations are necessarily of the hard plastic kind, however. No, I was also guilty of a far more dangerous form of inhalation, even though I had no idea at the time just how dangerous my actions were.

As a very young child, I totally loved the smell of Endust, although I don't know why exactly. I think I liked it because it reminded me of freshly dusted furniture. Whatever the reason, I enjoyed dropping my nose on a newly dusted surface and sniffing the lingering aroma of Endust. I decided, however, that this simply wasn't enough.

One day, I pilfered the Endust from my mother's cleaning closet and steeled myself in the back room den, where I perched in front of a window, removed the Endust cap, and promptly sprayed the cap halfway full with Endust.

Here was pure, undiluted Endust for my smelling enjoyment. I could hardly wait. I dropped my nose into the capful of Endust and took a long, long sniff. What happened next was something that my small mind and body could not totally understand.

I lifted my head from the cap, only to realize that things weren't quite right. My field of vision was just a haze of blinking stars, and I remember things going suddenly black before I toppled backward off my perch near the window. I didn't realize it at the time, but I probably killed about a quarter of my fledgling brain cells.

What I did realize was, after I came to and found myself lying on my back, and after an intense wave of nausea finally passed, I no longer liked the smell of Endust. I despised the smell of Endust. I wanted nothing more to do with Endust. In fact, to this day, I can't even stand the thought of dusting, although that may not have anything to do with Endust.

In order for me not to do something stupid, I apparently have to do it first. So you see, it's probably just a matter of time before I get a pen cap stuck in my nose.

Posted by Ryan at 06:52 PM | Comments (0)

And Just To Augment My

And Just To Augment My Point. . .

For those of you who totally disagreed with my last post, I offer up this opportunity to sign a petition against war with Iraq, but at the same time I feel I should poke holes in the petition, you know, because I'm a total asshole like that.

We the undersigned members of the academic community are opposed to an invasion of Iraq by the United States. The decision to start a war is perhaps the most significant decision the leaders of a democracy can make.

Agreed, which is exactly why it has taken so long for the U.S. to act thus far, and exactly why Saddam doesn't at this moment have an American flag sticking out of butt-cheeks. We're continuing to dance to Saddam's tune because, yes, war is a drastic step not to be taken lightly. But how long do you want to sit smoking your peace pipe while nuclear weapons are being developed in a plush Iraqi palace? Yes, North Korea has the bomb already. Yes, we know that. But they'll also think twice about using them once we roll into Baghdad and drag Saddam kicking and screaming from his hole. The threat of imminent regime change can have a calming effect, particularly right after seeing it done to someone else.

We oppose a U.S. invasion of Iraq for these reasons:

Invasion to replace the Hussein regime is not in the best interests of the United States, the region, or the world. An invasion of Iraq and destruction of the Hussein regime may lead to prolonged instability in Iraq; destabilization of the wider Middle East including the possibility of a prolonged and heightened conflict between Israel and the Palestinians; increased popular appeal of radical Islamic movements and increased anti-Americanism worldwide; and increased terrorism in the U.S. and abroad. Invading Iraq therefore will probably make both the region and the world less secure, not more secure.

Oh, save me from the prolonged instability of the Middle East! I don't know if you've noticed lately, but instability in the Middle East is actually the norm. In fact, instability in the region has become so commonplace, we're starting to mistake it for stability. Pakistan? Yup, they're nice and stable. Iran? Pure stability there. Afghanistan? Now there's a picture of stability. Just because Saddam has been killing his own people by the thousands for the past 20+ years does not in any way mean that Iraq is even remotely stable. Yes, and you simply MUST call attention to the heightened conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, even though Saddam has been openly compensating the families of suicide bombers to the tune of $25,000 a pop. How can you, in all good conscience, advocate a continuance of the status quo when the status quo is incredibly dangerous up to begin with?

Key U.S. allies do not support an invasion of Iraq. Many governments allied with the U.S. are urging restraint, demanding more evidence of an Iraqi threat, or opposing a U.S. invasion of Iraq. Governmental and popular support in Great Britain, the most stalwart U.S. ally, is weak at best. Any military action against Iraq should have the moral force of international consensus behind it.

Yes, history has shown that countries the world over have quaked in their boots at the thought of a "moral force of international consensus." Oh, and as for the cry for "more evidence," I have an idea about how we could attain that evidence: we'll slip into Iraq, say, with military force, explore a few underground labs and opulent palaces, dig the scientists from their holes as they toil to create a nice shipment of anthrax, and wave the smoking gun for all the tentative world to see. You're simply not going to see the evidence until you get access to the evidence. It's not like Iraq is going to fax Washington a memo saying, "Oh, yeah, we forgot to mention, we're a threat, and here's why (followed by an itemized list of weapons)."

The U.S. Government is not unified in support of invasion. Some senior elected officials, including members of President Bush's own Republican Party such as Rep. Dick Armey (TX) and Sen. Chuck Hagel (NE), do not support a U.S. invasion of Iraq. Secretary of State Colin Powell, a retired four star General with 35 years of military service who was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Gulf War, is known to oppose a U.S. invasion without broad international support. Major media outlets have been reporting for several months on widespread opposition to an invasion of Iraq among senior officers in the Pentagon, including several or all of the Chiefs of Staff. The decision to go to war should have the clear support of the U.S. Congress, the Secretary of State, and the commanding officers of the armed forces.

Um, yeah, Congress gave that support already, remember? Big vote prior to the midterm election? Ring a bell? As for dissenters, even Gulf War I wasn't unanimous, or a slightly forgotten operation in Yugoslavia that eventually served to oust a troublemaker named Slobodan Milosovic for that matter. Opposition is good, because it leads to informed discussion, but don't wave opposition voices as vindication, because even the most vocal of us can be horribly wrong.

The Iraqi threat is not credible. The opposition to an invasion among senior U.S. government and military leaders as well as most U.S. allies in the Middle East suggests that the Iraqi threat is not credible. The Bush Administration has presented no credible evidence of Iraqi progress toward making nuclear weapons. If they have such evidence, they should have presented it by now in the face of mounting international and domestic opposition to an invasion of Iraq.

See previous rant about procuring evidence.

An invasion of Iraq would be illegal under the Charter of the United Nations, to which the U.S. is a signatory. According to the Charter, only the Security Council has legal authority to start wars, with the single exception of national self-defense against armed attack. If the U.S. is indeed a land of laws, then our government should adhere to the basic principles of the Charter, which are intended to govern the relationships between nations for the collective security of all people.

Actually, as it stands now, the continued stonewalling on the part of Hussein gives us full justification to take matters into our own hands. Yes, I know the UN would prefer to hand the matter down to its specialized Committee on Further Talking and Mulling and Pondering, which would then hand it to the Committe for Deep Thought and Reflection, which would then hand it to the Committee That Holds Onto Things for Four Months Before Handing it Back to the Committee on Further Talking and Mulling and Pondering, but we could act on this now if we so choose.

For these reasons, we oppose a U.S. invasion of Iraq and urge others to do so also. Although we recognize the Hussein regime is reprehensible, the war being planned will not decrease and MAY increase the suffering of the Iraqi people for many years to come.

Oh, well, it "MAY increase the suffering of the Iraqi people for many years to come." Well, then by all means, stop those tanks! Then again, it MAY liberate the Iraqi people from a "reprehensible" regime that manages to hold on to power through intimidation, execution, censorship, brutalility and overall not-niceness. What these folks are really saying is "Yes, Hussein is reprehensible, and the Iraqi people are suffering, but Iraq is so nice and far away, and really none of our concern." Well, no, it's not, until you're jolted by the morning news telling of a nuclear strike in Tel Aviv.

But, really, go ahead and sign the petition. After all, over 32,000 people can't be wrong. Well, yes they could, but go ahead and sign it anyway.

Posted by Ryan at 04:55 PM | Comments (0)

No Peace in Our Time

No Peace in Our Time

I'll admit it, peace is a fine idea. I truly like the idea of everyone coming together for on big sloppy hug, with Palestinians and Israelis sitting side-by-side in the Dome of the Rock spinning draidles and laughing, and Saddam Hussein suddenly changing his blackened heart 180 degrees and stopping his mad quest for weapons of mass destruction and instead using his oil-laden wealth to construct a huge amusement park open to the world, including weapons inspectors, that features peace-themed rides like the Peace On Earth Tilt-O-Whirl, and the Power Tower of Peace and Love and Friendship and Cute Little Puppies and Kittens Playing In Meadows.

But the reality is that this world is not yet conducive to an all-encompassing peace. So long as the Israelis live and breathe, the Islamic world will hate them, and so long as the United States continues to be the wealthiest nation on the planet, we'll have enemies. If you're a disenfranchised, poor and uneducated soul living in Saudi Arabia, or Iran, or Yemen, and the only voice you hear is the local mullah telling you that the source of all your misery is the West, eventually you're going to hate the West, and no amount of common sense reasoning is going to sway you. You won't ask why. You'll just want to seek revenge. Enter al-Queda, and Islamic Jihad, and the Jihadists of Islam, and the Islamic Jihadists of Jihadist Islam, and the Jihadist Islamics of Jihadist Islam Who Are Better Than the Jihadists of Islam and the Islamic Jihadists of Jihadist Islam Combined.

It's not easy to go up against a religious culture that, at its most fundamental core, is an outdated throwback to a belief that women are submissive slaves to the whims and wishes of their male masters. Yes, there are Islamic offshoots that extend tentative arms into the realm of women's rights, but for the most part, it's the veil and home for most women of Islam. It seems each week that I venture into news items coming out of Iran, I'm treated to yet another story of a woman being stoned to death for infidelity. Or, consider the male theif who was sentenced to being thrown off a cliff in a sack who, if he survived the plummet, would be hanged to finish the job. Much of the world of Islam is an alien culture that simply can't be bargained with.

My parents teach in an international school in Tokyo, a school that teaches some Islamic students who come from insanely wealthy families. My father, during his sexual education class, tries to explain the virtues of a husband and wife partnership team, but his teachings are often met with puzzled looks by the Islamic students who are pretty much destined, through the huge inheritances they're going to receive, to have as many as three or four wives. The concept of a single wife for them is as alien as having four wives is to us, although I have to admit that it holds a certain amount of charm. The point is, because massive wealth equals more wives, you can kind of see why brainwashed fundamentalists will fly airplanes into buildings with the promise of 21 virgins awaiting them in the afterlife.

In third-world Muslim countries, where the vast majority of the wealth and power is held by a scant few shieks and mullahs, it's a tricky business to keep a firm grip on power while also keeping the poor masses below them from outright revolt. So, they twist the situation to their favor, pointing accusing fingers to the wicked West, a culture that allows women to go about in revealing clothes, and permits adultery with only minor repurcussions. We truly must represent a very real threat to them, even though we mostly want to establish more McDonalds and Starbucks rather than obliterate their precious way of life. But try convincing your run of the mill fundamentalist of that. As far as he (or she in some cases) is concerned, we want to deconstruct Islam and pollute their cultures with our infidel ways.

The only way to truly slice the head off the hateful snake slithering its way through third-world countries is a sustained, expensive, and admittedly difficult campaign of reprogramming their societies to understand that the West isn't out to destroy them. It would require tons of financial aid to keed the poor at subsistence levels enough to find the time to become educated to a point that would elevate them beyond their seething hatred of all things Western, a hatred fueled mostly by ignorance. It would require that Islamic countries institute a broader import/export policy that would include goods beyond oil. Seriously, when was the last time you bought something stamped "Made in Yemen" or "Made in the United Arab Emirates."

I know, it sounds fanciful, and incomplete, and arguably laughable to the core, but here's the deal. Without a viable peaceful plan, the only bargaining chip we have left when it comes to dealing with pukes like Saddam Hussein is the threat of a good old-fashioned ass whupping. America has the capability to wipe out every country it doesn't like with a few strategically placed nukes, and we've shown considerable restraint from doing just that. The biggest and most glaring rebuttal to the Islamic fundamentalist belief that America is out to destroy Islam is the fact that their countries aren't at this very moment smoldering heaps of radioactive heat. If we were really out to stamp out Islam, we wouldn't have allowed a shipment of SCUDS to continue on its way to Yemen. What does Yemen need SCUDS for anyway? A super cool fireworks display? As the Daily Show with John Stewart pointed out, Yemen isn't our enemy, it's just an anagram of ENEMY.

Which brings us back to Iraq. I don't like the thought of war with Iraq. I don't like the thought of American soldiers and innocent Iraqi civilians being killed. But, seriously, what are our options? You have a scheming dictator, still smarting from an embarrassing military obliteration 11 years ago, who is, pretty much without a doubt, working tirelessly to build and arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. To what end? Building such an arsenal is not something you do in your spare time, for fun, just to see if you can do it. These weapons will have a purpose and, even though striking America with them is extremely unlikely, striking the American air base in Saudi Arabia is not. Saddam would be hailed as a hero for freeing the holy soil of Saudi Arabia of the American infidels. And he'd do it. He'd do it in a beat of his demented black heart. Any leader who announces his intent to carry out a scorched earth policy on his own country in the event of an invasion, and blame it on the West, is frankly capable of anything.

Ours' is a dangerous world, and the deep political and religious divides can't be smoothed over with a big smooch or a poorly made quilt. There's a reason America maintains a military edge in the world, and it's not so rag-tag orgazinations like al-Queda can buzz and sting us, or so Hussein can eventually launch ebola into Israel. We have this military so we can protect outselves and the fragile institutions of democracy and freedom. We have this edge now, and as distasteful as it may seem to the Sean Penn's of the world, there are cases when its use is justified, even if it means acting without a world theater opinion backing our actions.

Sure, there are peaceful alternatives, and they could bear fruit in two generations or more. The question is, given the stage we're playing on right now, and the actors involved, is it really wise to wait and see? I tend not to think so.

That was too serious. Here's a list of famous hot chicks to hopefully boost my Web traffic:

Christina Aguilera. Jessica Alba. Lindsay Lohan. Jenny McCarthy. Christina Hendricks. Kate Hudson. Christina Hendricks. Christina Aguilera. Jessica Alba. Lindsay Lohan. Heidi Klum. Angelina Jolie. Christina Aguilera. Jessica Alba. Lindsay Lohan. Jenny McCarthy. Christina Hendricks. Kate Hudson. Christina Hendricks. Christina Aguilera. Jessica Alba. Lindsay Lohan. Heidi Klum. Angelina Jolie.

Posted by Ryan at 10:51 AM | Comments (0)

December 19, 2002

Oh, Pepsi How I Love

Oh, Pepsi, How I Love Thee

As I sit here, happily sipping my ritual morning Diet Pepsi, I drink the caramel colored concoction with just a tad more delight knowing that Pepsi has dropped its Britney Spears ad promotion. No more will I have to watch that despicable blonde floozy hawking the soda product I love the best. Good-bye, Britney, you no-talent, eye-candy hack. Write when you get work, preferably in the amateur porn industry where you belong.

Granted, I'm holding judgement on Pepsi's decision to adopt new pitch-woman Beyonce Knowles, a name that sounds like some sort of French genital rash. Again, she's stellar eye-candy, and she has the whole Austin Powers thing going for her, but it would be kind of neat if Pepsi took the time to find an unknown talent, a shy girl-next-door who can still stir the raging teenage male libido enough to prompt the acne-laden lads to jump forth from their Playstation consoles long enough to purchase a Pepsi product.

Sure, celebrities have their place in society, albeit a small self-absorbed place, but I just can't stand it when their tired mugs start saturating the marketplace promoting everything from soft-drinks to automobiles. Just because Summer Glau appears in a commercial for Pepsi Twist, does not mean the vile lemony brew approaches anything even bordering on tasty. Now, if she had been drinking a Pepsi Twist while getting it on with Billy Bob Thornton in Monster's Ball, I could possibly have a different opinion on the matter.

At any rate, Britney's gone! And my Diet Pepsi tastes better because of it.

Now, if they had Julia Stiles as a spokesperson. . . Mmm, Julia Stiles. Even better, a Julia Stiles. A Julia Stiles would make me drink even more Pepsi. Mmmm, Julia Stiles. *drool*

Posted by Ryan at 09:58 AM | Comments (0)

December 18, 2002

Thunder in December and Condom

Thunder in December and Condom Shopping

Until last night, a thunderstorm in December in Minnesota would have been unthinkable to me. But, come about 10:30 p.m., lightning flashed across the sky, followed by thunder's booming report. It was like a visit from an old friend, listening to the windows gently rattling as the storm rolled through. I sat at my computer and closed my eyes and, for a brief moment, I genuinely believed I could step outside into humid summer air and breathe the smell of ozone. It was a nice escape, brief though it was.

I had to go condom shopping last night, and I chose Uber Target as my retail outlet because it's so huge you're guaranteed a certain degree of anonymity. Standing in front of a condom display is not something I particularly enjoy, especially if there's an audience. Condom pondering is best done in solitude. One thing I knew for certain: I did NOT want LifeStyles. I recently finished fighting my way through a 36 pack of LifeStyles. Sure, I should have tried a sample pack of 3 or so but, being the raging libido freak I am, I just HAD to grab the big box. I don't know where LifeStyles got their idea of Ultra Thin, but apparently they took a few pages out of the Hefty trash bag book. My girlfriend and I both gave them a big thumbs down, but we were determined to sex our way through the box. Mission accomplished. Never again.

Last night's condom sampling featured a 12 pack of Durex Ultra Thin, a tried-and-true brand that I heartily recommend. I also bought a six pack of Trojan Supra, whatever that means. Throw the word Supra on the end of a product, and customers flock. "Try new Depends: Supra, for when life's loads get to be too much." I often try to imagine what the check-out clerks think when someone buys condoms, particularly when, like me, you go through the check-out with two boxes of condoms, two Totinos pizzas, and a shower luffa. "What kind of freaky shit is this guy into?" At any rate, I am now re-stocked with baby blockers, which is a good thing because the girlfriend just finished her fall semester at the university, so she's going to be around a lot.

Just to boost traffic, I thought I'd repeat the name Vida Guerra. Vida Guerra. Vida Guerra. Vida Guerra. Vida Guerra. Vida Guerra. Vida Guerra. Vida Guerra.

Posted by Ryan at 11:10 AM | Comments (0)

December 17, 2002

A Microcosm of Marriage in

A Microcosm of Marriage in American Society?

Melinda just got engaged last night, and she's all excited. I'm trying to withold my scathing judgment from her. But, I'll let you decide based on a recent conversation I had with her. Names have been changed to protect the innocent and the stupid. Well, except me.

Melinda says: We all went out on Saturday night - was having fun, around 11:30, Bart showed up, so we left. Tina told Bart that Tony was going to ask me to marry him. Bart flipped out. He keeps calling me today telling me that I have to give the pictures of him back to him, all of the letters he's written me, etc. I told him no, but he's threatneing to tell Tony all kinds of things

Ryan says: So let him tell Tony all he wants. Big deal.

Ryan says: Bart is just being a baby. A big, fat, drug-addicted, anchor on society baby.

Melinda says: that's what I told him

Melinda says: he told me that I was cold hearted

Ryan says: That's what he does. He tries to make you out to be the bad girl.

Melinda says: yeah, when I know that I'm not. The way he's acting just verify's why he and I would NEVER work out

Ryan says: I will never, ever, understand why you feel you have to keep that guy in your life. Aren't you going to be getting engaged soon? Why do you care that he may find someone else? Come to think of it, why do you care about anything he says or does?

Melinda says: It's not easy because I love him.

Ryan says: Fine, you love Bart. You've been singing that song for two years. Is that fair to Tony?

Melinda says: Tony doesn't have to know that.

Ryan says: Well, that just leaves you with your decision whether to marry Tony or not.

Melinda says: yeah, down to just one situtation to deal with

Ryan says: And where are you at with the situation?

Melinda says: I feel more relaxed thinking that we can have a long engagement. Time enough for me to decide if that is what I want or not

Ryan says: Still seems odd to me that you can't have the same time to figure that out without having a diamond on your finger.

Melinda says: I could

Ryan says: Okay, so why rush the engagement?

Melinda says: I'm not rushing

Ryan says: Fine, so why is TONY rushing the engagement?

Melinda says: who knows... I told him that Bart wasn't happy. And, that he wanted his stuff back.

In other news Luciana Salazar is hot. I like to see Luciana Salazar nude. A naked Luciana Salazar would be pretty awesome. Mmm, Luciana Salazar nude.

Posted by Ryan at 11:57 AM | Comments (0)

Holiday Greetings From a Fan

Holiday Greetings From a Fan

Yesterday, I received a Christmas card in the mail from a die-hard fan of my weekly newspaper column. That has never happened before, and I was very touched by the gesture. I rarely receive any column feedback at all, save for a jar of pickled peppers that was given to me three years ago in tribute to a column I wrote about my love for hot and spicy food.

The card I received included a picture of my fan and her husband and son. It put a face on a fan I had never met, and it sort of sunk in that there may actually be people out in the world who enjoy my writing, and who actually think I'm funny from time to time. It was probably the best Christmas card I ever received. So, a thank you goes out to you, oh fan of mine. Thank you for your kind words and the nice card.

Posted by Ryan at 11:10 AM | Comments (0)

December 16, 2002

If Only Each Hit Was

If Only Each Hit Was a $1 Bill

Today I shall surpass the 5,000 visitor mark. I would like to thank the one person who made this milestone possible. Me.

Okay, I guess I have to extend thanks to Jen for designing my site and pretty much showing me how to do everything short of typing, but mostly I just want to pat myself on the back and marvel at how great I am.

That is all.

Posted by Ryan at 04:46 PM | Comments (0)

Chronologically Impaired It has been

Chronologically Impaired

It has been one of those Mondays where I don't function normally. My alarm went off at 6 a.m., as usual, and I apparently clicked the snooze button for an hour without realizing it. I stared blankly at my clock, made a mental note that I still had just over an hour to enjoy slumber should I wish it, shuffled into the bathroom to tinkle, and returned to the warmth of my bed and fell asleep almost instantly, forgetting, of course, to reset my alarm for 8 a.m.

So, 9:17 a.m. rolls around, and I awake by pure luck, look over at my clock and think, "Hmmmm, it's only 9:17. That means I can sleep about. . . wait a minute. . . 9:17? Awwww, damn it! I'm late!"

First things first; I leaped to my computer and logged off MSN Messenger, and then I logged back on. Why? Because, my co-workers and bosses all use MSN at work, so, by logging on, my bosses will see a flashing sign appear on their screens telling them I just logged on. I cling to the hope that this throws them off into thinking I'm actually in the office, rather than scurrying around in my boxer shorts at home. I know, it's a long shot, but can it really hurt?

Then it was into the bathroom where I brushed my teeth and perused my head and face stubble. Both surfaces had not seen a razor in two days, but I opted to save time by simply shaving my cranium and leaving my face as it was. So I look like a vagrant. So what? I work in an IBM office all by myself. Who is really going to care? At least I showered. I can at least claim three out of four hygiene accomplishments for the day.

In my haste to get to the office, however, I forgot to put on my watch. My watch!! I didn't notice its absence until I was almost to work. Once again, I uttered "Awwww, damn it!" I hate, hate, hate not having my watch on hand, er, so to speak. I'm a notorious clock-watcher. Sure, there's a clock next to my computer, and sure I could rely on the clock right there in the lower right hand corner of my computer screen, but those aren't on MY time. I need to know what time it is in MY time. My watch is set ahead exactly nine minutes from computer time. I understand MY time. I'm used to automatically subtracting nine minutes from my watch to ascertain the correct time. If I subtract nine minutes from computer time or clock time, I'll end up throwing myself all off. I'm not sure if I can endure an entire workday without my watch.

Now, if you'll excuse me, it's almost time for lunch. I think. I can never be sure unless I know what time it is in MY time.

If only Natalie Portman would bring me my watch. Preferably, a nude Natalie Portman. If Natalie Portman delivered my watch in the nude, this day would be perfect. Mmmmm, Natalie Portman nude.

Posted by Ryan at 11:50 AM | Comments (0)

December 15, 2002

A Column From Late May,

A Column From Late May, Can't Remember When Exactly

I recently donned a tuxedo and stood front and center as yet another of my good friends surrendered to the institution of marriage. And, although I could expound endlessly on my own proud status as the last living single man on earth, or on how smoking hot I looked in a tuxedo, I'm opting instead to recount the four-and-a-half hour journey to Milwaukee, where the wedding (a.k.a. crime) took place.

Milwaukee is a large city situated on the eastern border of Wisconsin, a state known for cheese, bitter beer, and a religious devotion to The Church of Favre (there are lesser denominations established for Lombardi, Holmgren and Starr). If not for the Green Bay Packers, I believe, Wisconsin-ites would actually be able to evolve beyond their current Jeffrey Dahmer and Ed Gein developmental status.

Thankfully, I did not have to traverse the vast Wisconsin expanse by myself. A fellow groomsman, Chad, accompanied me on the lengthy drive from Rochester, Minn., to Milwaukee. Therefore, I could engage in conversation whenever the Wisconsin countryside grew tiresome. In other words, I engaged in conversation pretty much the entire trip.

The fastest and most direct route between point A and point B is to link up with I-90 and keep the speedometer latched at just shy of 10 miles above the speed limit. Once this is accomplished, it's simply a matter of watching time drag by as the wheels drone on in perpetuity.

11:30 a.m.: Chad and I depart. We both agree that we need to stop for pop, and soon.

11:35 a.m.: We stop at Kwik Trip to buy pops. I buy a 20 oz. bottle of Diet Pepsi. Chad buys a much larger bottle that resembles the shells fired from U.S. battleships. I think Chad will regret this purchase within an hour.

11:37 a.m.: After leaving Kwik Trip, Chad and I talk about our jobs for about 15 minutes. Eventually, the topic starts to irritate us and we fall into sullen silence for about five minutes.

11:58 a.m.: Now firmly on I-90, Chad begins talking about money and investing and tells me I should roll my savings into tax-free municipals and. . . and. . . I escape into my mind where I imagine scantily clad women chasing me down a sandy beach.

12:15 p.m.: I emerge from my beach fantasy briefly to acknowledge that Chad is now talking about the volatile economy and how it has a negative effect on overall investment returns. I revisit my fantasy, only this time there are more women chasing me.

12:20 p.m.: Desperate to change the topic of conversation, I ask Chad about his Harley motorcycle. This pleases Chad to no end and he begins a lengthy discussion about his bike and how he wants to buy a newer one. Compared to investment strategies, this is highly entertaining conversation.

12:35 p.m.: We reach LaCrosse, where we cross the Mississippi. No matter how many times I cross the river, I'm awed by its timeless beauty. It drifts lazily along, unconcerned about current events, interested in nothing. It's like a giant liquid teenager.

12:50 p.m.: Once outside of LaCrosse, I become aware of a disturbing number of dead deer littering the side of the road. I make a mental note of the carnage but remain silent.

1 p.m.: "Man there are a lot of dead deer on this road," Chad and I say practically in unison. There are deer carcasses to the right and the left. And where there are no deer bodies, there are massive red stains painting the pavement for about a quarter of a mile. It's like a demented marriage between a slasher movie and Wild America.

1:30 p.m.: We reach a truck stop in a town called Mauston. Chad hurries to the bathroom to dispose of his giant Diet Pepsi mistake. I'm amazed he made it two hours. We decide to eat at the truck stop. We're surrounded by truckers, all of whom have the tired, grizzled look of someone who has seen all of America 10 times over at 65 mph.

2 p.m.: We resume our journey. Aside from the continual string of smashed deer, the only thing to delight the senses are interspersed billboards advertising Wisconsin Dells. I'm trying to imagine a family vacation under the surreal conditions.

MOTHER: "Look kids! Noah's Ark! You'll be playing in the water in just a couple of hours!"

CHILDREN: "Mommy, why isn't Bambi moving?"

4 p.m.: We arrive in Milwaukee, having spent the last two hours counting deer carcasses.

Who says Wisconsin is boring?

Now, in a bid to boost my site traffic, I'm going to repeat the name Hanna Montana a few times. Hanna Montana. Hanna Montana. Hanna Montana. Hanna Montana. Hanna Montana. Hanna Montana.

Posted by Ryan at 11:29 PM | Comments (0)

December 13, 2002

A Whole Lot About the

A Whole Lot About the Girlfriend, and An Overdue Apology

Thanks to a rebounding immune system and hefty doses of Vicks Sinex nasal spray, I'm sliding into the weekend with my health almost back to normal, save for the occasional cough and tissue full of snot. Gotta love the snot.

I'm heading back to St. Paul after work today to see the girlfriend. It was a long week without seeing each other, despite our phone calls. Strangely, we have yet to actually fight, about anything, and fighting has traditionally been one of my stronger areas when it comes to relationships. I'm superb when it comes to on-the-spot arguments, and I can usually leave my targets unable to respond to my crushing doses of harsh reality and common sense.

Alas, Melissa and I haven't had reason to yelp at one another yet, despite four months of dating. As she stated so poignantly last night, "honey, we really are pathetic." And, she's right. We need an argument, something to stir the pot. Okay, we don't, but I just keep wondering if being so content and happy is actually healthy. Then again, every time I think of her family life, I find it hard to want to fight with her about anything.

Her parents are divorced. I know, who's parents aren't divorced in today's world, where the divorce rate in America is over 50 percent. It's not that Melissa's parents are divorced that offers cause to pause, it's why they're divorced. It turns out that Melissa's father remembered that he was gay. That seems to always have a detrimental effect on marriage. So, Mel's parents split when she was in 9th grade, although she didn't learn of her father's homosexuality until a couple of years after.

That made for an interesting Thanksgiving, that's for sure.

On the one hand, I met the ultra-religious mother, a very kind woman who told Melissa countless times when she was growing up that "she was going to hell." The high point of the holiday, for me, was when her mother revealed that she was dating a married man, at which point Melissa said, "Mom, you're going to hell," and to which her mother replied, "Me? What about you?" I kept imagining Satan in the corner, with a heaping plate of turkey and stuffing, laughing and pointing maniacally.

On the other hand, there's the swinging gay father, a man who is so incredibly manly, you would never guess he's actually gay. I remember when I first met her father. It was during one of our first dates, and Mel invited me to go swimming in her father's pool. She offered to show me around her dad's place, and she introduced me to a young man in addition to her father. Not knowing that her father favored men, I asked if the young man I met was her brother or some other relation.

"No," she answered. "Not exactly. That's my dad's boyfriend."

*insert foot into mouth, and chew until tender*

"Oh," was all I could say.

So, Melissa's folks clearly aren't the Cleavers. It's a stark contrast to my own family life, featuring a solid parental marriage that has survived over 30 years, two insane dogs, 11 years teaching in Tokyo and, most incredibly, having me and my brother battling our way through the house for 22 years. Such a family life is alien to Mel, who once stated, in all seriousness, "It's so weird that your parents are still together."

Despite her less-than-normal childhood, Mel seems to be the epitome of normal, although I continually keep my baggage scanners on full alert. Granted, at 27 years old, I allow quite a bit more baggage to flow through than I would have at 22, but Mel consistently passes all my tests, and I've grown just a little more than enamored with her.

The weekend should be fun, with plans to attend the Hollidazzle parade on Saturday, with a possible stay at an Embassy Suites. We also have to do gift shopping at the Mall of America (Ugh!). With all due respect to our great mall, once you've seen it 10 times, you've seen it 10,000 times. Come Sunday, I should really get to writing the book report I offered to do for her, a comparison of two Holocaust-era books, Dawn, by Elie Wiesel and Maus, by Art Spiegelman. Both books I highly recommend. Easy and quick reads with plenty of emotional punch.

I must take this time to officially apologize to someone whom I know I've done nothing but hurt all week. Layne, I truly am sorry for all the scathing commentary I've bestowed upon your site. Your recent posts admittedly bothered me, but I had no reason to belittle you the way I did. It's your site, and your thoughts, and it's not my place to question how you choose to live your life. Reading your site is an enjoyable part of my daily routine, and I'm deeply sorry if I've hurt you in any way. I blame the cold. fucking cold.

Posted by Ryan at 10:47 AM | Comments (0)

December 12, 2002

Learning Sinus Language I. Feel.

Learning Sinus Language

I. Feel. Like. Hell.

For the second day this week, I came into work at noon in an attempt to sleep away the awful bug infesting my system. For the most part, I think, it's gone. However, my clogged sinuses, the most irritating sympton by far, stubbornly remain. I don't know if there's a big party in my sinuses or what, but no one seems to want to leave.

The most embarrasing aspect of this lingering sinus illness is my voice, which sounds like Andre the Giant has cupped a huge hand over my face. It's bad enough having a tell-tale Minnesota accent, you betcha, but to compound the situation with this muffled voice must make me nearly unintelligible to my fellow human beings.

To make converstaion with my fellow human beings a little easier, here are some simple sinus language examples so you can follow along with my day.

Gool morgning = Good morning. I feel horrible.

Howg ig eferythink wig you = How is everything with you? I feel like tiny miners are trying to dislodge my eyes from their sockets. Should this happen, please help me retrieve them from the floor.

Preggy nige dage todage, iggn't it = Pretty nice day today, isn't it? Except for the fact this accursed weather is the primary reason I feel so entirely awful. Would you happen to have any pills consisting of 100 percent codeine I could borrow?

Surg, I guesh I cag get thacht doneg todage = Sure, I guess I can get that done today. How can you ask me to do anything even remotely work-related in the state I'm in? Can't you see how miserable I am? Isn't the perpetual stream of snot trickling forth from my nostrils a solid indication that I'm in no mood to perform tasks of any kind, unless it involves laying in bed with a gallon of 7-Up?

Yesh, Ige am a shmoking hocht shpeshimen of maleg hunkinesh = Yes, I am a smoking hot specimen of male hunkiness. Unfortunately, you've caught me on a day when I'm not at my best. Granted, I'm still drop-dead good looking, and most women would pay big money to see me in a speedo, but I'm lacking that certain edge today.

Itsh wash niceg talking wick youg = It was nice talking with you. I only hope I didn't subject you to this vile debilitation infesting my system. If so, stay away from me for four months, or however long it takes you to feel better and not give the illness back to me.

Posted by Ryan at 12:58 PM | Comments (0)

December 11, 2002

The Playground Bully "You're out!"

The Playground Bully

"You're out!"

"Am not!"

"Are too!"

Tony started to swagger across the dodgeball battlefield to confront his vocal naysayer, and the game stopped instantly. Both sides quieted to a dull murmer as Tony made his way to the shivering youth who had the audacity to claim that big Tony Masters, scourge of the playground, the only fourth grader who had to shave before going out for noon recess, was out.

"Who you calling out, faggot?" Tony growled as he grabbed Scott by the neck and administered a body blow with his right hand, a soft punch by Tony standards, because he was feeling generous that day. Also, the school monitor, Mrs. Thompson, was dangerously nearby, administering to a scraped knee, apparently unaware of the bullying taking place not more than 40 feet away.

Scott crumpled into a quivering mound on the cold, hard autumn ground, gasping for breath as Tony stepped heavily on his right calf. Scott would have screamed out in pain had he not been out of air.

"Game on!" yelled Tony as he made his way back to his dodgeball team, and the game commenced with no one daring to throw a ball at Tony or catch one of his powerful hurls lest they suffer poor Scott's fate, who was now sitting on the sidewalk blubbering uncontrollably with drool pitifully running down the sides of his mouth.

The game continued for about five minutes, when suddenly big Tony let out a terrific shriek of pain. Once again, play stopped abruptly, and all eyes turned toward Tony who was gripping his left shoulder in agony.

"Who threw that walnut?!" he howled. "Who the hell threw that walnut?! I'll kill whoever it was! I'll kill . . ." But his threat was cut short as yet another walnut came cruising from out of nowhere, crashing into Tony's forehead and exploding in a spray of sweet smelling yellow pulp. Tony, his feet firmly planted, toppled directly backward like a felled tree.

Now sporting a fresh bleeding cut in the direct center of his forehead, and his vision somewhat blurred by the projectile attack, Tony staggered to his feet while his schoolyard peers looked on not knowing what to do. Well, except for the recently abused Scott, that is. He knew exactly what to do.

Scott ran over to the disoriented bully, wiped the blood from his forehead using his own sleeve, and asked if Tony was okay. Tony nodded and said he would be fine in a little bit.

"Good," said Scott, putting his hands softly on Tony's shoulders. "Then I don't feel bad doing this."

With that, Scott mustered all his tiny yet determined strength and kneed Tony forcefully in the groin. The wounded giant let out a mournful wail and collapsed to his knees, and little Scott kicked him in the ribs for good measure, a slight smile of intense satisfaction gracing his still tear-streaked face.

With that, the rest of the playground congregation, realizing they now all had a golden moment to reap revenge for all of Tony's past wrongs, lined up to administer their own punishment. Some children spit, others kicked, while still others just looked on pointing and calling him names.

Nearby, Mrs. Thompson continued comforting the youth with the scraped knee, oblivious, but not really, to the long-overdue schoolyard revenge taking place during her watch. She patted the little girl she was caring for on the head and sent her on her way. The child smiled broadly and laughed before picking up her jumprope and happily skipped away.

Mrs. Thompson then continued her careful monitoring of the playground, all the while smiling and rolling three walnuts over and over again in her pocket.

Posted by Ryan at 12:04 PM | Comments (0)

December 10, 2002

Finding a Life Purpose Through

Finding a Life Purpose Through Total Hatred of Someone Else

I sat in the IBM office, a bauhaus square of filtered flourescent luminescence, metal desks, soft temporary walls, and the omnipresent buzz of computer gadgetry. No windows, no music, no indication that the sun was actually arcing across the sky, or that life in general took place outside the walls.

I tapped furiously at my workstation, laboring to edit a 400 page manual before my Friday deadline. Nearby, my manager, Jenifer (one N, and don't you forget it) sat at her desk going over my last piece of work, a 500 page tome of technical whatthefuck. I had decided early on in my job that Jenifer wasn't probably one of my favorite people in the world, and this decision was awarded with Jenifer and I sharing an office.

Jenifer was one of those people who sacrificed all semblance of a personal life in order to advance her career, a strange decision because, in our department, no one could really advance anywhere. If you were fast and could turn around editing work quickly, you were rewarded with even more work and, at the end of the year, you were given a Salary Action, a term that simply meant your salary would increase to reflect an increased cost of living. None of this apparently dissuaded Jenifer.

I probably spent more time trying to understand Jenifer than I did at actually trying to get work done. An attractive woman with Latina blood swimming in her system, giving her the appearance of being perpetually tanned, she could have probably had some fun living life, but she chose to throw herself into her work, while maintaining a condescending air over practically anyone who had the audacity to pop into her office. As luck would have it, I was ALWAYS in her office. We were an editing team, and we had to adhere to her pedantic process.

The process worked like this: Jenifer would edit a book and cover the pages in red editing marks. I, in turn, would enter her changes online while also checking for additional errors. Then, Jenifer would get the book back and edit it once more, at which point it would be handed back to me to, once again, enter her changes and make even more additional changes. That's right, folks. This job was F. U. N.

"Ryan, you really messed up here. It's a good thing I caught this or IBM legal would have been down our throats," said Jenifer unexpectedly.

"Well, let me see what I did, so I don't do it again."

"Right here, you have to be sure to know the difference between AS/400 and AS/400e. You're still pretty new to this stuff, so we won't dwell on it too much, but it's something to keep in mind."


(Fast Forward to the Next Day)

As I went back through Jenifer's editing marks, I discovered that it was her, not me, who had made the grievous error that would have surely brought IBM crumbling to the ground. It was right there, in her prissy little handwriting, the smoking ink. I started to laugh.

"Sigh. What's so funny?" asked Jenifer, not taking her eyes off the computer screen.

"Remember that mistake you found yesterday that you gave me such a hard time about?"

"Yeeessss. But, there really wasn't anything funny about it," she said with an authority that came across so bitchy I couldn't wait to spring the news on her.

"Well, it turns out that it was your mistake," I said smiling, and I circled her red error with a big blue swath of ink of my own.

The storm clouds that gathered over Jenifer's head as I repeatedly circled the proof would have caused most dogs to cower and scamper from the office with their tails between their legs. I, however, had commited to this bit of self-justification and redemption, so I was ready for her. Or at least I thought.

"So it's my fault! You know, it really wasn't a big enough deal that you have to make such a display of it! Just fix it next time and save me the drama!" she roared, her face now 12 shades of enraged red. She then turned back to her computer and started clicking away with overt animation.

I rolled my eyes, desperately burning for a response, but nothing popped to mind.

"You know," said Jenifer, swiveling quickly in her chair. "There are a lot of managers who would take what you did very personally. You should really learn when and when not to bring something like that up!"

With that, my insult dam burst.

"Oh, just shut up!" I blurted, turning to face her. "Just yesterday you made the mistake sound like the biggest error ever to cross an IBM page! But when I point out that it was actually your fault, and rightfully considering how big of a deal you made it out to be, you totally lose it! It wasn't my fault. It was your fault. Your damned fault! Grow up and live with it!"

I think Jenifer was actually trembling with rage as she stormed from the office. One month later we were awarded separate offices, although we continued to hate each other for the next year and a half. Truth be told, I still hate her.

Some day, if I ever get to be rich and famous, I'm going to make it a point to find out where Jenifer lives and pee on her lawn.

Posted by Ryan at 02:55 PM | Comments (0)

December 09, 2002

Cold Today? Why, Yes, I

Cold Today? Why, Yes, I Do

December in Minnesota this year has not thus far been very pleasant. Despite a relative lack of snow, we've been treated to temperatures hovering just around Absolute Zero. It's so cold. . . How cold is it? It's so cold that. . . well, it's just really fucking cold, okay?

Anyway, I have resolutely refused to give up my exercise regimen, which requires between two to four hours of hapkido each week, and at least 10 to 15 miles of running. After all, it takes work to maintain this smoking hot specimen of male hunkiness body with which I've been gifted. Damn I'm just soooo hot.

Well, the hapkido I have no problem with, owing primarily to the fact that it's conducted indoors. The running, however, is conducted outdoors and requires substantial bundling to ward off the piercing cold. I've been pretty good about running my usual five mile jaunt at least twice a week, but the cold air has finally caught up with me, in the form of. . . a cold.

Today I awoke with the familiar dry throat that feels like a rusty sewer pipe, and a hollow cough that reverberates like a hammer hitting a steel barrel. I'm also sporting the obligatory runny nose and ill-timed sneezes. Other than that, let me assure you that I feel fine.

It's funny how much I take being healthy for granted, until I wake from blissful slumber only to feel like a mighty oak that was felled in the night by a bacteria-laden woodsman. Timmmmmbrrrrrrrrrrr! *hack* *hack* *cough* *sneeze* Let me just take a moment to give myself a high five for that brilliantly conjured analogy.

The long and the short of it is that I'm sick, and I'm tired, and I totally don't want to be at work today. Oh, for the toasty warmth of my bed and the shrouding darkness of my basement abode. *sniffle* *sneeze*

Posted by Ryan at 11:21 AM | Comments (0)

December 08, 2002

Lottery Madness I have a

Lottery Madness

I have a friend, whom I'll call Marc, primarily because his name is Marc. Well, Marc has this interesting philosophy regarding the Powerball lottery institution. Marc likes Powerball, particularly because it offers the minute chance of living a life of luxury, with bikini-clad, and non-clad women feeding him peeled grapes out by the Olympic-sized pool in the backyard of his palacial estate.

To Marc, all of this sounds a lot better than his current status living in a medium density apartment complex with his girlfriend who posseses about as much personality as a bowl of rotten fruit. I kid, of course. His girlfriend isn't that bad. She is, in fact, much, much, much, much worse. But, this entry isn't about Marc's girlfriend, because I can't come up with the appropriate number of derogatory analogies to describe her at this moment.

Marc's philosophy when it comes to the Powerball is as follows: Simply stated, Marc won't play the Powerball until the jackpot exceeds $60 million. Why? Because, according to Marc, "that would provide enough to live comfortably on." No, I'm not kidding. Those were his exact words one day as we drove aimlessly around the countryside.

Marc explained that, after taxes, which he says will be about 50 percent, he'll only have about $30 million left. And, as we all know, $30 million is pretty much on the cutting edge of the American poverty line. Marc continued to defend his stance, saying he wanted his future children to get comfortable inheritances. I guess I can see that. I mean, after he has 60 children, they'll only stand to inherit, at best, after Marc goes on a lifelong spending spree, around a measly $300,000. That's chump change.

The only reason this discussion between Marc and I came to mind was because I had a pretty good string of luck with scratch lottery cards this weekend, accounting for $108 in winnings. And I don't normally play lottery cards, with this weekend being the first time I had the urge to play in over three months. So, I'm feeling pretty good about my luck yesterday and today. Granted, it's no $60 million, but I'm still pretty damned pleased.

And, for the record, the Powerball is now worth an estimated $101 million. So, I bought two tickets. And, you know, if I win, I may even give Marc a buck or two. It's the least I can do.

Posted by Ryan at 09:00 PM | Comments (0)

December 06, 2002

Unexpected Internet Porn Last night,

Unexpected Internet Porn

Last night, I fought with my computer as I tried to install Morpheus 2.0, because that's the tool I use to download music. As a side note, I'd like to say, "Hey, music industry, get a clue. There is no way in holy hell you're going to be able to stop people from accessing and downloading free music files. The Internet is your hydra; if you cut off one head (Napster), 20 more will spring forth from its severed neck." There, I feel better.

So, anyway, after probably the 18th attempt at installing the maddening software, my roommate popped her head in and asked if I could look up a couple addresses for her so she could finish up her Christmas cards. Yah, sure, you betcha. No problem. Just let me remove my foot from the screen.

I entered into the address bar and pressed Enter. I swear, that's all I did. I didn't actually type in or anything. Suddenly, without any warning whatsoever, my screen came alive with all manner of Internet porn. Pop-up after pop-up featuring exposed female beaver and donkeys being sucked off by truly adventurous women with no self-esteem kept flashing before my eyes, and the eyes of my poor roomie.

I'm okay with Internet porn. As an avid Web surfer, I've grown used to the fact that a standard surfing session is bound to include the occasional click into the realm of penises and vaginas. You know, if I'm lucky. I'm pretty much convinced that, if it weren't for the proliferation of online porn, the Internet would be a hollow shell of its current state.

But, at least when I accidently, and somtimes purposely, peruse a porn site, I'm all by myself. Last night, with donkey sex and fisting and the use of carrots and cucumbers for far more than simple nutrition being broadcast, my roomie stood right behind me, soaking in way more than the addresses she came seeking in the first place. It was just a little bit embarrasing, to say the least.

I tried to commence with the standard game of digital whack-a-mole, closing down the pop-ups as they came onscreen, but that only had the cascading effect of prompting even more porn pop-ups. So many exposed beavers and raw sex. I would have been turned on if I weren't so embarrased. I should note here that I don't get embarrased easily (see previous post).

"Um, er, well. What the hell is going on?" I finally managed to stutter.

"I don't know, but there's a lot of it," said Amy.

I finally managed to cut down the final porn site, featuring vaginal views that even most gynecologists don't see, and proceeded to look up the addresses Amy stopped in to get.

She then left my room in a bit of a hurry, apparently eager to leave me by myself and my lecherous pursuit of all things pornographic.

Posted by Ryan at 11:37 AM | Comments (0)

December 05, 2002

This One Is Sorta Gross,

This One Is Sorta Gross, Folks. Read With Caution

Ryan says: You need a big swift kick in the ass today.

Mandy says: what for this time?

Ryan says: *swuff* *whack!*

Ryan says: I don't need a reason.

Mandy says: well that isn't very nice of you

Mandy says: just as i was thinking what i should get you for xmas, you kick me

Mandy says: that's it! no gift for ryan

Ryan says: It was done out of love.

Mandy says: too late, you bruised me

Ryan says: Hrm. I think I may have just shit myself.

Ryan says: I had best go check.

Mandy says: lol

Mandy says: you have fun checking on that

Ryan says: Yep. I shit myself. Damn pseudo-farts.

Mandy says: that is horribly disgusting

Mandy says: *gag*

Ryan says: I had a rumbly tummy this morning, but I had no idea it was cooking up something like that.

Mandy says: please please please tell me you are kidding

Mandy says: you REALLY don't have to share that kind of info with me

Ryan says: That's the way it goes sometimes. One minute you think you have to fart, the next minute you're in a men's room stall taking off your boxer shorts and mopping up your backside. And, no, I'm not kidding.

Mandy says: i will remember this next time i am having my period & a little "accident" happens

Mandy says: ohhhhhhh, the stuff i can share

Ryan says: You gotta admit, there's a slight bit of humor inherent in the whole ordeal.

Mandy says: not even a little

Mandy says: yuck yuck yuck

Mandy says: mr. squirty fart

Ryan says: It wasn't like a huge spray or anything like that. Just a little seapage.

Mandy says: making it worse

Mandy says: brian & i share pretty much everything & i don't think he has ever shared that with me

Mandy says: so, are youcommando now?

Ryan says: Yep. I'm swinging free from the nut tree. Boxer shorts are in my coat pocket awaiting a cleanse.

Posted by Ryan at 01:03 PM | Comments (0)

My Inner Geek Shows Through

My Inner Geek Shows Through

On Tuesday this week, I had to attend a meeting in Minneapolis to discuss magazine content, layout, and design. Despite my total distaste for meetings (see previous post), I actually enjoyed the face time with production editors, ad salespeople, and managers who I only see once or twice every three months, despite almost daily conversations with them via telephone. Plus, I was able to stroke my creative right brain leanings by offering up possible magazine design changes. Okay, so I enjoyed a meeting. Call me a hyprocrite if you will. You're all a bunch of assholes as far as I'm concerned. Assholes.

Well, anyway, the meeting in Minneapolis was well-timed because Tuesday was also my girlfriend's birthday, so I was able to celebrate her 28th year of existence without having to take the day off work. I took her out to eat at an Italian restaurant called Ciatti's, or at least I think that's how it's spelled. I guess it really doesn't matter how it's spelled. It was an Italian restaurant, and that's all you need to know. Actually, you don't even have to know that much. Quit being so nosy. Assholes.

As we walked to the entrance, I noticed an adjacent store that sold comic books and games. You know the type of place I'm talking about. If you don't, just think of the Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons and you'll get a pretty good idea.

More than just a shop for comic books and games, however, this place provided patrons with a large seating and snack area, offering area geeks a place to get together and play their games. I use the term "geeks" here appreciatively. There's nothing wrong with being a geek. Geeks will one day be responsible for writing all the code patches for the release of Windows 2010 XP. If I offend any geeks out there with this post, I'm sorry. Please don't throw your thick-rimmed, masking taped glasses at me.

What floored me about the comic book and game store was that it featured a huge window so outsiders like Melissa and myself could peer in and witness the secret world of the local gaming community. Table upon table was crammed with geeks playing Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons and Dragons and Star Trek and Star Wars role-playing derivatives. It was just so deliciously geeky, I couldn't help but stare.

Eventually, a few gamers became aware of our outside presence, and they cast us startled looks, as if we were unwelcome intruders into their little world. "Go away, non-believers, lest we vote you out of the continuum as per the rules laid forth in the Klingon tribunal." So, Melissa and I quickly scurried into the restaurant, leaving the gamers to their own little worlds.

The tough admission that I must make, however, is that I, too, am a geek, or at least I was. There was a time when I would have driven to the Twin Cities just to play for a couple hours in that comic book and game store. From 9th to 11th grade, I was a die-hard Dungeons and Dragons fanatic. I had three different sets of lucky dice, I had numerous D&D rule books, and I had countless characters. Hell, I even bought a miniature D&D village during a class trip and spent the entire bus ride home putting together a bunch of tiny cardboard buildings. I wasn't just a geek, I was a member of the royal family of geekdom.

But it gets worse. My little group of about five loyal gamers even transformed a room in our buddy's basement into a D&D gaming room, complete with posters and a Wall of Fame that held the names of our most successful and powerful characters. We had candles and a round table and an extensive library of D&D manuals. We would play for hours, often burning up our weekends by playing into the wee hours of the morning. If there is such a thing as a geek pheromone, chances are that we emanated it from our pores, in sufficient enough quantities to make the female gender cover their noses and run away screaming.

Thankfully, I went to live in Tokyo my senior year, leaving my D&D life behind me. In Tokyo, I discovered beer and parties, and I honed my skills in these areas the following years in college, effectively flushing my system of geek pheromones and briefly enjoying a status as a male whore. But those are different stories for different days.

So, there was a part of me, as I peered in and watched the next generation of Bill Gateses gaming away, that kinda, sorta wanted to run in, buy a set of dice, and join them. Call me a geek if you will.

You're all still a bunch of assholes.

Posted by Ryan at 12:05 PM | Comments (0)

I'm Just Not Corporate Material

I'm Just Not Corporate Material

I've worked at IBM for just over three years now, the first two spent editing mind numbingly boring technical manuals, the last year spent writing articles for a fairly technical magazine, a job that I actually don't mind, despite my chronic bitching.

I've noticed, however, that I simply don't want to play the corporate game. When it comes to my job, all I want is to be given a task, and then I want to complete that task. I then want to go on to the next task. I don't want to hype my work to those above me. I don't care about corny little awards that may be bestowed upon me. I'm not working to feel good about myself. I'm working so I can build experience so I can eventually get the hell out of here and start doing writing work that actually makes me deeply happy, like writing about bodily emanations for Maxim or something.

During my last job, people constantly walked all over me, taking credit for work I did, and I really didn't give a shit. Just give me the paycheck every two weeks. I didn't care when my lead editor held up the last two edited manuals that I did as some great accomplishment on her part. Whatever. My officemate constantly told me to stand up and take credit when someone tries to do that. When I explained that I really didn't care who was credited for editing a DB2 UDB manual, she said "You'll never get ahead here with an attitude like that."

Yes, but, I don't WANT to get ahead at IBM. The only thing that getting ahead gets you at IBM is more work, and possibly a shiny plaque that says, "Good Job." I was given three such awards during my last job, and they all promptly found their way into the trash the moment I got home from work. I don't need crappy trinkets cluttering my desk telling me I did a good job. That's what money is for. Give me money. I understand money. To me, money says "Good Job. Now go out and buy something."

I don't understand people that thirst for the next big corporate promotion, people that talk the lingo of business with all the enthusiasm of a small dog humping a leg. To me, sitting in on a meeting is, usually, wasted time. But, at every meeting I've ever attended, there's always a few people that can't wait to speak at length about nothing, expounding on all the tasks they completed, going into great detail about everything. "Well, yes," I think, "But, isn't that their job in the first place? To get things done? Do we really have to sit here and listen to how they do their job? What's the point?"

Thankfully, my current bosses seem to sense my distaste of corporate aspirations. They give me an article or two to write, and they leave me be, knowing that I'll get the articles done, and that they will be good articles. That type of autonomy speaks volumes about their faith in my abilities. They don't waggle meaningless promotions in front of me, offering to up my status from "News Editor" to "Primary News Editor." They give me work, and I do the work, and then I get a paycheck, and that's the way I like it.

"Why," you may ask, "don't I just get out of IBM and find work somewhere else then?" The answer is experience, or lack thereof. Almost every employer I've ever talked to is looking for applicants with five or more years of experience. They don't seem to understand that applicants can't get experience unless an employer takes a chance on a fresh-from-college newcomer. It's a vicious Catch-22, particularly in this job market. I'm just now nearing my fifth year of experience, spanning newspapers, magazines and those God-awful technical manuals. Hopefully, my experience base will help me to jump ship to something more entertaining.

It's not about getting ahead and grasping the brass ring. It's about finding a job that I truly enjoy and that doesn't feel like work. I'm not interested in trampling people to get ahead, which is a major component of being the traditional IBM employee, as far as I've seen. It really is true that, "even if you win the rat race, you're still a rat."

I'd just as soon stay out of the race and watch from the sidelines, writing about how stupid all the rats look.

Posted by Ryan at 10:46 AM | Comments (1)

December 04, 2002

The Start of My Great

The Start of My Great Leap Forward

I was patted down vigorously by an armed military officer who had apparently been specifically trained to administer the most vigorous human pat downs imaginable. Myself and my fellow classmates all endured the probing and patting hands, sacrificing our basic human dignity in the name of getting through China's strict customs and immigration procedures.

If the guard had found so much as a plastic dinner knife on my person, I'm relatively certain the rubber gloves would have been unleashed and a body cavity search conducted. Thankfully, the most lethal thing about me after the flight from Tokyo to Beijing was my breath. Whatever was in the strange beef jerky meal they fed us on the plane, it had effectively turned our exhales into leaf-wilting vileness.

When the chance to go to China as part of our Asian Studies class had been offered, I jumped at the opportunity. As a senior attending high school in Japan in 1993, I was determined to soak up as much culture as I possibly could. For some reason, having lived in affluent industrial societies all my life, I had naively assumed that China would be just as developed as everything else I had every experienced. It wasn't until we emerged from the airport and were beset upon by throngs of beggars that I realized that, for many countries, poverty is the norm rather than the exception.

Our teacher, Mr. Stern, a veteran of many China visits, and a slight Marxist, quickly ushered us into a taxi/van, and the eight of us wearily took in the bleak countryside as we made our way into the heart of Beijing to our hotel.

Posted by Ryan at 04:50 PM | Comments (0)

December 02, 2002

Christmas Cookie? Well, with Thanksgiving

Christmas Cookie?

Well, with Thanksgiving now officially behind us, and the turkey leftovers now undergoing their 23 permutation to make them seem fun and exciting, and even perhaps palatable, we have now entered the home stretch to the true meat of the holiday season. Er, no pun intended.

How do I know that Christmas is now looming before me? What telltale signs do I rely on to foretell of the annual appearance of Old St. Nick?
Oh, sure, I could fall back on such obvious clues as omnipresent Christmas music, or the explosion of twinkling lights adorning houses. But, no, when it comes to ascertaining the impending arrival of Christmas, I consult fortune cookies.

Yes, you know Christmas has maybe, just maybe, become a tad too commercialized when even the sacred prophecies of Chinese fortune cookies bespeak of your guaranteed holiday bliss.

Although it's still somewhat difficult for me to believe, the fortune cookie that accomodated one of my recent Chinese food purchases actually told me I could expect a happy holiday season. Specifically, it read: "You will have a safe, carefree and fun holiday season."

In retrospect, I guess I should be rather grateful for my good fortune. Woe be it to the gentleman who was served after me who got the foreboding cookie that harbored the message: "Your holiday season will be filled with horror, dread and, eventually, your own ghastly demise."

Given that Christmas is widely considered a very depressing time for a lot of people, I should be pleased that my fortune cookie told me of my impending good cheer. Now I can gleefully walk past panhandlers without giving them a second thought, because, no matter what I do wrong, my Christmas season is set to be chock full of carefree safety and fun.

You know, now that I think about it, what would have happened if my fortune cookie had shifted down to the bottom of the crate and wasn't placed in with a Chinese meal until later in the year, like around Jan. 2 or so? Then what?

Would the prophecy of a carefree holiday carry over to next Christmas? If so, who wants to wait that long for a fortune to come to fruition? Honestly, I'd feel pretty gyped. What if the Christmas I just endured was an absolute ordeal, and it all could have been averted if only I had gotten the cookie earlier? That would seem like some sort of cruel cosmic joke.

The more I thought about it, and believe me when I tell you that fortune cookie pondering often takes up the majority of any given day for me, the more I tried to make sense of the holiday-specific fortune.

I'm still at a loss. Dumb fucking cookie.

Posted by Ryan at 04:48 PM | Comments (0)

An Unwelcome Blanket Arrived Today

An Unwelcome Blanket Arrived Today

I awoke groggily this morning, as is usually the case come Monday. My snooze button and I carried on our standard nine-minute game of "blaring radio and blind swat." I dragged myself into the bathroom and started my difficult morning ritual of improving on what could arguably be described as male perfection. I'm just that great.

With my face and head slathered in Dove soap, and my Mach 3 making short work of two days worth of cranial and facial stubble, I heard Amy, my roommate, come bounding down the stairs. She poked her head into my bathroom, grinning from ear-to-ear. Decked out in her impossibly cute white frizzy robe, I thought that there are definitely worse ways to start my morning.

"You might not want to go upstairs today," she said.

"Uh oh. Why not?" I asked, scanning down briefly to admire her legs.

"There's about three inches of snow on the ground," she chirped.

My heart sunk a tad, and I halted my shameless roomie ogling. Snow! No! Say it ain't so! I groaned audibly, and Amy laughed as she went back up the stairs.

It's no secret that I dislike winter very much. And, after a wonderful Sunday consisting of 40+ degree weather, I had sort of fooled myself into thinking that maybe we could escape the first snowfall until deep into December. Alas, it was not to be. Thankfully, Amy shovelled the driveway and sidewalks earlier in the morning, so I was saved that horrible task, at least for one day. So it begins, the daily vigil to see whether the snow gods will dump irritating flurries throughout the winter season.

Man, I hate winter.

Posted by Ryan at 11:34 AM | Comments (0)

December 01, 2002

"It's Purely Out of Habit"

"It's Purely Out of Habit" c. Ryan Rhodes, June 27, 2001

Overall, I see myself as a self-improvement type of guy. I'm always on the lookout for new and exciting ways to make myself even greater than I am, as difficult as that is to imagine.

As great as I like to think I am, I am willing to admit that I suffer from a few of the human shortcomings known as "habits." Now, I don't necessarily indulge in the more dangerous habits like smoking or chewing, but I've been prone to engage in some pretty unseemly repetitious activities at certain points throughout my life.

For example, I used to chew my fingernails on a daily basis. Granted, this is not an unusual habit but, on more than one occasion, I actually drew blood and kept right on chewing. I was probably two nibbles away from blood poisoning when I gave up the irritating habit my second year of college. Nowadays, rather than sheer my nails with my teeth, I use my dental dexterity to simply clean underneath them, which is just as gross, but it doesn't involve bloodshed. It's all about compromise.

There are, of course, some current habits I could stand to part with. For example, I could, just possibly, maybe, afford to cut back on my use of expletives. Although I am by no means a swearing machine, I have been known to let some verbal venom fly on occasion. Such occasions usually occur during rounds of golf, Vikings' games, whenever I hurt myself, and when I sit down to write a marginally humorous column. All of these are arenas for truly mind numbingly hot language, and it's a *&%$#*@ habit that I could probably do without.

Now, habits with which I'm aware are really not a big problem. I know they exist and I make a conscious decision whether to make an attempt at self-improvement and end them. However, I also have some habits that I refer to as "heartbeat habits." These habits are so ingrained, and so commonplace, I simply don't notice them, just like my heartbeat.

Examples of "heartbeat habits" include whistling at inopportune times, drumming my fingers to an imaginary beat on hard surfaces, and rambling on and on about mind numbing topics that really don't go anywhere, much like this column.

Last week, as I labored at my computer console, the young woman who shares my office called my attention to one of my "heartbeat habits." It had been a typically long day, and I stretched, grunted, and scratched myself, all of which could be considered bad habits. However, it was a far more common habit that drew the ire of my office co-worker (to protect her identity, I'll simply refer to her as Gretal). For the record, Gretal is an attractive German intern who will be working in my office for the next couple of months. I only mention this because I'll refer to these facts again later in the column.

The "heartbeat habit" Gretal called my attention to was, of all things, cracking my knuckles, an act that I perform countless times over the course of a day. Gretal insisted that the repetitious act would result in me developing arthritis, an insinuation that prompted me to search the Internet to prove her wrong. I won't bore you with the details of my search, except to say it involved the words "synovial," "gas," "crack," and "metacarpophalangeal." I also discovered that there is no definitive proof that knuckle cracking causes arthritis.

"Okay," countered Gretal (and I'm not making this up), "What about the way you suck snot into your throat?"

Now, this statement drew a completely blank stare from me until Gretal mimed exactly what she meant. In short, she was referring to the way that I, once in awhile I assure you, snorted snot rather than blowing it into a Kleenex. I'm a snorter, a snuffler, a sniffler, a snot sucker. Gretal had exposed me to yet another "heartbeat habit," and I was horrified.

Mind you, I wasn't particularly horrified because I was a "snuffler." After all, snuffling is simply less time consuming and frankly less gross than blowing my enzymes into a tissue. Rather, I was horrified that my snuffling was audible enough to irritate other people. What's worse, because Gretal is German, I'm actually guilty of being an international irritation. In other words, I managed to irritate a representative of a nationality that created such irritating things as sauerkraut and fahrferghnugen (or however that irritating word is spelled).

Although I probably have habits that are far more severe than snorfing snot, I made a vow then and there to take more conscious control of my snuffling. It's a habit I simply have to break. I don't want to spark an international incident after all.

Dark Knight. Heath Ledger. Batman. The Joker. Dark Knight. Heath Ledger. Batman. The Joker. Dark Knight. Heath Ledger. Batman. The Joker.

Posted by Ryan at 10:06 PM | Comments (0)
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