January 30, 2003

Credit Cards and Fuzzy Bathrooms

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.

A Nice, Soft, Fuzzy Bathroom

Before I moved into my current house/basement apartment with Amy, I lived in a Rochester complex called Candlewood Apartments. It was a pretty nice place, I mean overall. For my roommate, Mark, and me, it was right up our alley. It wasn't a cheap dump hole, but neither was it very expensive. In short, it was a decent place for a couple of friends, fresh out of college, to establish a base of operations for our assault on the real world.

We lived there for about two years, and over that time we witnessed an encroachment of bad elements. For example, when I first moved in, security was at least noticeable: a guard driving through occasionally. Eventually, however, security visits became less frequent, and shitbags began a fairly routine ransacking of automobiles. Thankfully, I drove an absolute crapmobile, an '89 Cavalier sporting more rust than the surface of Mars. I didn't lock the doors, because I didn't want to pay for a new window in case a car mouse decided to rummage through my automobile, and someone would rummage through my car on practically a nightly online.com/images/nataliacruze/indoorpool/-267-01-lg.jpg">basis.

In addition to the increased nocturnal activity of car mice, the relatively low rent of the complex enticed a lot of lower income lessees, which would have been fine, but the newcomers insisted on throwing parties every day of the week. In my college days, I was all for such revelry, but in the real world I wanted to just fucking sleep. So, my roommate and I were starting to get plenty tired of Candlewood Apartments.

And then our bathroom started growing mold. Only, it wasn't our fault. Mark and I were pretty damned clean, and we tried to fight the strange encroaching mold that seemed to be seeping through the ceiling. We tried Scrubbing Bubbles, we tried soap and water, and we tried everything. We even had maintenance come in to look at the problem, but their solution was to paint over the mold. The mold, of course, simply crept down over the new paint.

It went on like this for over a month, a losing battle against mold. In addition, our once reliable hot water now became not-so-reliable. I was getting pissed, and so was Mark. What the hell was going on with this place? A moldy ceiling. Infrequent hot water. Our place had become a shithole, and it wasn't our fault. We both wanted to know what the hell was going on, but neither of us were prepared for the explanation.

Finally, one day, as Mark was going out to his car on his way to work, he met the maintenance worker who had applied the coat of paint over our mold. The worker had located the source of all our misery.

It turns out that there was an immigrant woman living upstairs in the apartment directly above ours. I think she had a husband, but he wasn't around very much, so she spent day after day just squirreled away in her little apartment, afraid of the American world outside her door. Well, one day, just over a month prior, she had gone into the bathroom to take a shower, only to have the hot water control break off in her hand, prompting the shower to shoot forth a jet of scalding water. Her solution? Close the bathroom door and pretend it didn't happen.

That's right. For over a month, the little immigrant woman lived in an apartment where the shower was running, on high hot, in perpetuity. She was scared that, if she were to seek help, she would be evicted. In the meantime, her bathroom became a 24/7 steam room, an absolute haven for all things moldy. According to the maintenance worker, he had never seen anything like it. The bathroom was coated, absolutely coated, in a thick mat of black mold. toilet seat? Coated. Sink? Coated. Floor? Coated. Walls? Crumbling and coated. The only spot that didn't have mold was where the shower had been spraying into the tub.

No fucking wonder we had mold creeping into our bathroom and our hot water wasn't behaving: there was a huge penicillin operation being conducted just a few feet over our heads. The bathroom above us, obviously, was a complete loss, and as far as I know the immigant woman was evicted.

I'm so much happier where I'm at now, with Nigella Lawson nude at my side.

Posted by Ryan at 05:16 PM | Comments (0)

January 29, 2003

"Grab The Last Beer For

"Grab The Last Beer For Toad Licking News" c. Ryan Rhodes, Jan. 20, 2003

Well, it's been some time since I've scoured the great news heap that has gone unexplored amidst all this talk about impending war. However, although this week's installment of nearly overlooked news may be a tad old by news standards, that does not in any way lessen its importance. Now, before this news gets any older, let's begin.

Have you ever gone to a buddy's refrigerator, only to discover that a single beer remains? Sure, we all have. Of course, we remain civil about it. I mean, no one would ever kill someone over the last beer, right? Wrong.

According to a Dec. 6, 2002 Reuters news item out of Bandera, Texas, "a jury on Thursday handed a life prison sentence to a Texas man who shot and killed a longtime friend he accused of drinking the last beer in his refrigerator."

I don't know what it is about Texas. There must be something in the beer. I remember writing about another item that came out of Godley, Texas, about a man who killed another man during an argument over who was going to heaven and who was going to hell. amazingly, that incident also involved the ingestion of beer. A warning to all Texans: Stop drinking beer!

Getting back to the article: "‘There was only two beers left, so I took one, and I told Willie (now deceased Willie Lawson, 39) not to take my last beer,' Steven Brasher, 42, said in a taped statement that was played during the trial."

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "well, if it was the last beer, I guess I can kind of see his point." Actually, if you're thinking that, you're probably from Texas.

Come on, people. There's plenty of beer for all of us. And, if not, we can always hunt around in the backyard for a toad or two to lick. Huh?

From another Dec. 6, Reuters news item out of Amsterdam, we learn that "Dutch police are investigating whether drug addicts raided a pet shop and stole three exotic toads whose warty skin can induce hallucinations when licked."

You know your drug addiction may have hit an all time low when you start pondering the hallucinogenic qualities of a toad. When you find yourself enduring massive DTs due to toad withdrawal, it's a good indication your path in life has gone horribly astray.

The article continues: "Licking the toads can cause side effects like swelling of the tongue and temporary muscle paralysis, according to the pet shop owner."

JUNKIE ONE: Dude, are you all right? You don't look so good.

JUNKIE TWO: I can't move. I think I overdosed on toad!

This is your brain. This is your brain on toad. Any questions? Yeah, who came up with the idea of licking toads in the first place? There's nothing about the concept of picking up and licking a toad that sounds like a good idea to me. Maybe it's not something I'm meant to understand. Maybe it's something only German artists can understand. Huh?

From a Dec. 5, Reuters news report out of Berlin: "Visitors to an off-beat Berlin arts center thought a dead woman on the ground was a performance art act rather than a suicide, police said on Thursday."

Imagine, if you will: you're walking along the street, and you encounter a body. What do you do? Myself, I would check for vital signs, starting with a pulse. I would not immediately assume that the crumpled mass laying before me was an act of artistic expression. But, then again, I'm not German. I'm not a Texan either, thank goodness (hands off that last beer!).

To quote the article: "‘A group of visitors to the center at first thought the body lying on the ground at the art center was part of an art performance,' said police spokeswoman Christine Rother. ‘It took a while before anyone realized it was not an act but a suicide.'"

ART STUDENT #1: To me, the disjointed limbs represent our broken society, while the pained expression on her face is a cry against poverty, war, and social injustice.

ART STUDENT #2: True, true. It's representative of the works of Abbie Hoffman. Truly, this is a brilliant piece of work.

PASSER BY: Hey, this woman is dead!

ART STUDENTS #1 and #2: Pay him no mind. He has no eye for beer. That's mine!

I mean, unless a Texan claims it first.

Naked girl in a bar. Nude girl in the ocean.

Posted by Ryan at 10:42 AM | Comments (0)

What Did Bush Say? Mr.

What Did Bush Say?

Mr. Speaker, Vice President Cheney, Members of Congress, distinguished citizens, and fellow citizens:

Okay, bad start. In the wake of his recent move to remove taxes on stock dividends, did he really have to make a distinction between distinguished citizens and us run of the mill fellow citizens?

You and I serve our country in a time of great consequence. During this session of Congress, we have the duty to reform domestic programs vital to our country … we have the opportunity to save millions of lives abroad from a terrible disease. We will work for a prosperity that is broadly shared … and we will answer every danger and every enemy that threatens the American people.

Oh, brother. This sounds like it's going to be a long one.

To insist on integrity in American business, we passed tough reforms, and we are holding corporate criminals to account.

We are? I must have missed that one. I seem to recall a few bastions of corporate America collapsing under the weight of their own accounting fraud, followed by rampant paper shredding, followed by some scolding at the hands of a Senate subcommitte or two, and then a couple of token convictions. Yet, the guilty millionaires are still millionaires, even if they may have to serve some easy time and maybe do some community work at the local soup kitchen.

Some might call this a good record. I call it a good start. Tonight I ask the House and Senate to join me in the next bold steps to serve our fellow citizens.

I don't call it a good record. Nor do I call it a good start. But, don't take my word for it. Let's hear it from the President:

After recession, terrorist attacks, corporate scandals, and stock market declines, our economy is recovering - yet it's not growing fast enough, or strongly enough.

That doesn't strike me as a good record, and if it's just the start, I had better start digging a bunker somewhere in Nevada.

With unemployment rising, our Nation needs more small businesses to open, more companies to invest and expand, more employers to put up the sign that says, "Help Wanted."

So, what the President wants, if I understand him correctly, is a nation full of understaffed businesses.

Jobs are created when the economy grows; the economy grows when Americans have more money to spend and invest; and the best, fairest way to make sure Americans have that money is not to tax it away in the first place.

Ladies and gentlemen, Bush Economics 101.

I am proposing that all the income tax reductions set for 2004 and 2006 be made permanent and effective this year. And under my plan, as soon as I have signed the bill, this extra money will start showing up in workers' paychecks. Instead of gradually reducing the marriage penalty, we should do it now. Instead of slowly raising the child credit to a thousand dollars, we should send the checks to American families now.

I can't bitch about that. Makes sense to me.

We should also strengthen the economy by treating investors equally in our tax laws. It is fair to tax a company's profits. It is not fair to again tax the shareholder on the same profits. To boost investor confidence, and to help the nearly 10 million seniors who receive dividend income, I ask you to end the unfair double taxation of dividends.

Well, I still don't buy that. Let's see, the American population is just over 278 million. Therefore, the 10 million seniors he proposes to help account for roughly 4 percent (rounded up from 3.5) of the population. Also, chances are, if they're making money of any substance off dividends, they can probably afford to pay the damned tax. I'm fairly certain Mr. Bush could take the time to find an alternate tax to abolish, something that can help those of us without two summer homes.

Lower taxes and greater investment will help this economy expand. More jobs mean more taxpayers - and higher revenues to our government. The best way to address the deficit and move toward a balanced budget is to encourage economic growth - and to show some spending discipline in Washington, D.C. We must work together to fund only our most important priorities. I will send you a budget that increases discretionary spending by four percent next year - about as much as the average family's income is expected to grow. And that is a good benchmark for us: Federal spending should not rise any faster than the paychecks of American families.

Since when does this administration give a rip about a balanced budget, or spending discipline for that matter? A four percent increase in discretionary spending sounds noble, until you realize that four percent of infinity is still infinity.

A growing economy, and a focus on essential priorities, will also be crucial to the future of Social Security. As we continue to work together to keep Social Security sound and reliable, we must offer younger workers a chance to invest in retirement accounts that they will control and they will own.

Social Security? What's that? I certainly don't expect it to be around when I hit 65.

Our third goal is to promote energy independence for our country, while dramatically improving the environment.

What? Our President is talking about the environment? No way!

I have sent you a comprehensive energy plan to promote energy efficiency and conservation, to develop cleaner technology, and to produce more energy at home. I have sent you Clear Skies legislation that mandates a 70 percent cut in air pollution from power plants over the next 15 years. I have sent you a Healthy Forests Initiative, to help prevent the catastrophic fires that devastate communities, kill wildlife, and burn away millions of acres of treasured forest.

I can just see Mr. Bush laboring over that last line, frantically scribbling out the word "valuable" and penciling in "treasured." I can't comment on the proposed legislation, because I really haven't heard of it. However, you have to love the tags Clear Skies and Healthy Forests. After all, how can you vote against either of those? Hell, they could call for the deforestation of all of Oregon (after all, what better way to prevent forest fires then to get rid of all those pesky trees), and those voting against it will be chastised for voting against Clear Skies and Healthy Forests.

I urge you to pass these measures, for the good of both our environment and our economy. Even more, I ask you to take a crucial step, and protect our environment in ways that generations before us could not have imagined. In this century, the greatest environmental progress will come about, not through endless lawsuits or command and control regulations, but through technology and innovation. Tonight I am proposing 1.2 billion dollars in research funding so that America can lead the world in developing clean, hydrogen-powered automobiles.

That's impressive. Mr. Oil is promoting alternative energy. I never thought I would see the day. Granted, 1.2 billion dollars will be gobbled up in no time, but it's a start.

A simple chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen generates energy, which can be used to power a car - producing only water, not exhaust fumes. With a new national commitment, our scientists and engineers will overcome obstacles to taking these cars from laboratory to showroom - so that the first car driven by a child born today could be powered by hydrogen, and pollution-free. Join me in this important innovation - to make our air significantly cleaner, and our country much less dependent on foreign sources of energy.

I don't like President Bush particularly much, but that was a damned good initiative. Granted, it sounds like he just studied up on the topic about 10 minutes prior, but I don't doubt that he plans to follow through. I never thought I'd hear him utter the word "hydrogen" without the word "bomb" accompanying it so, once again, I'm impressed.

*Considerable Deletions Because This Is Getting Loooooonggggg*

There are days when the American people do not hear news about the war on terror. There is never a day when I do not learn of another threat, or receive reports of operations in progress, or give an order in this global war against a scattered network of killers. The war goes on, and we are winning.

Now, here, I agree with the administration. The war on terrorism, really, is a 24 hour battle. We don't hear the half of what goes on, and frankly, I don't want to. After watching the footage of Sept. 11 over, and over, and over again, I learned what it was like to feel helpless and suspicious. I don't need daily reminders. All I ask is to hear of the big terrorist news. I'm okay with that.

To date we have arrested, or otherwise dealt with, many key commanders of al-Qaida. They include a man who directed logistics and funding for the September 11th attacks … the chief of al-Qaida operations in the Persian Gulf who planned the bombings of our embassies in East Africa and the USS Cole … an al-Qaida operations chief from Southeast Asia … a former director of al-Qaida's training camps in Afghanistan … a key al-Qaida operative in Europe … and a major al-Qaida leader in Yemen. All told, more than 3,000 suspected terrorists have been arrested in many countries. And many others have met a different fate. Put it this way... they are no longer a problem for the United States and our friends and allies.

Human rights activists will no doubt be up in arms about that one. And I say, "get real." These terrorists are people who made a conscious decision to attack civilians. They are soldiers in a clandestine war of pipe bombs in malls, and biological agents in test tubes. You want to extend them the right to a trial? Then you're woefully unaware how these people think. They wouldn't hesitate to put a bullet in your skull the moment they learn you're a Western infidel. I see no problem with extending to them the same courtesy.

We are working closely with other nations to prevent further attacks. America and coalition countries have uncovered and stopped terrorist conspiracies targeting the embassy in Yemen … the American embassy in Singapore … Saudi military base … ships in the straits of Hormuz, and the straits of Gibraltar. We have broken al-Qaida cells in Hamburg, Milan, Madrid, London, Paris - as well as Buffalo, New York.

To the critics of the war on terrorism, I should point out that each and every one of those accomplishments make apprehending Osama bin Laden pale by comparison. Let the puke breathe. For each thwarted attack, the loyalty of his network falters, and eventually he'll surface because the appropriate amount of coin will just happen to grease the appropriate hand.

Our Nation and the world must learn the lessons of the Korean peninsula, and not allow an even greater threat to rise up in Iraq. A brutal dictator, with a history of reckless aggression … with ties to terrorism … with great potential wealth … will not be permitted to dominate a vital region and threaten the United States.

Saddam anyone?

Twelve years ago, Saddam Hussein faced the prospect of being the last casualty in a war he had started and lost. To spare himself, he agreed to disarm of all weapons of mass destruction. For the next 12 years, he systematically violated that agreement. He pursued chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons even while inspectors were in his country. Nothing to date has restrained him from his pursuit of these weapons - not economic sanctions, not isolation from the civilized world, not even cruise missile strikes on his military facilities. Almost three months ago, the United Nations Security Council gave Saddam Hussein his final chance to disarm. He has shown instead utter contempt for the United Nations, and for the opinion of the world.

You want evidence? It's right there in front of you. Twelve years worth of evidence. Let's finish the job.

The United Nations concluded in 1999 that Saddam Hussein had biological weapons materials sufficient to produce over 25,000 liters of anthrax - enough doses to kill several million people. He hasn't accounted for that material. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed it.

Maybe you're content to foolishly say, "Well, we haven't found it, so it doesn't exist," but 25,000 liters of anthrax just doesn't disappear. Sometimes, evidence is that which is not right before your eyes, but concealed from view.

The United Nations concluded that Saddam Hussein had materials sufficient to produce more than 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin - enough to subject millions of people to death by respiratory failure. He has not accounted for that material. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed it.

See above.

Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard, and VX nerve agent. In such quantities, these chemical agents also could kill untold thousands. He has not accounted for these materials. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed them.

See above.

U.S. intelligence indicates that Saddam Hussein had upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents. Inspectors recently turned up 16 of them, despite Iraq's recent declaration denying their existence. Saddam Hussein has not accounted for the remaining 29,984 of these prohibited munitions. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed them.

See above.

>From three Iraqi defectors we know that Iraq, in the late 1990s, had several mobile biological weapons labs. These are designed to produce germ warfare agents, and can be moved from place to place to evade inspectors. Saddam Hussein has not disclosed these facilities. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed them.

See above.

The dictator of Iraq is not disarming. To the contrary, he is deceiving. From intelligence sources, we know, for instance, that thousands of Iraqi security personnel are at work hiding documents and materials from the UN inspectors - sanitizing inspection sites, and monitoring the inspectors themselves. Iraqi officials accompany the inspectors in order to intimidate witnesses. Iraq is blocking U-2 surveillance flights requested by the United Nations. Iraqi intelligence officers are posing as the scientists inspectors are supposed to interview. Real scientists have been coached by Iraqi officials on what to say. And intelligence sources indicate that Saddam Hussein has ordered that scientists who cooperate with UN inspectors in disarming Iraq will be killed, along with their families.

And this is what the peace activists are marching against. They're marching against the liberation of these people. Yes, a war will kill civilians. But, Saddam kills civilians even without war.

Year after year, Saddam Hussein has gone to elaborate lengths, spent enormous sums, taken great risks, to build and keep weapons of mass destruction - but why? The only possible explanation, the only possible use he could have for those weapons, is to dominate, intimidate, or attack. With nuclear arms or a full arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, Saddam Hussein could resume his ambitions of conquest in the Middle East, and create deadly havoc in that region. And this Congress and the American people must recognize another threat. Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody, reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaida. Secretly, and without fingerprints, he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own.

And he would, too.

Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.

Indeed. Trusting Hussein's sanity and restraint is like leaving a toddler in a room with 25 loaded weapons and hoping he or she doesn't fire any of them.

The dictator, who is assembling the world's most dangerous weapons, has already used them on whole villages - leaving thousands of his own citizens dead, blind, or disfigured. Iraqi refugees tell us how forced confessions are obtained - by torturing children while their parents are made to watch. International human rights groups have catalogued other methods used in the torture chambers of Iraq: electric shock, burning with hot irons, dripping acid on the skin, mutilation with electric drills, cutting out tongues, and rape.

And yet the pacifists brush away such truths, as if an errant cruise missile is somehow more horrible than being locked in a room where random drops of acid fall from the ceiling, keeping the victim in perpetual motion until he collapses from exhaustion. They think they're somehow protecting these doomed people, when in fact they're promoting their misery.

If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning. And tonight I have a message for the brave and oppressed people of Iraq: Your enemy is not surrounding your country - your enemy is ruling your country. And the day he and his regime are removed from power will be the day of your liberation.

Not particularly eloquent, but powerful all the same.

The world has waited 12 years for Iraq to disarm. America will not accept a serious and mounting threat to our country, and our friends, and our allies. The United States will ask the UN Security Council to convene on February 5th to consider the facts of Iraq's ongoing defiance of the world. Secretary of State Powell will present information and intelligence about Iraq's illegal weapons programs; its attempts to hide those weapons from inspectors; and its links to terrorist groups. We will consult, but let there be no misunderstanding: If Saddam Hussein does not fully disarm, for the safety of our people, and for the peace of the world, we will lead a coalition to disarm him.

Bush has been painted as a cowboy on a mad dash towards war, but these are not the actions of a warmonger. He's been deliberate, and patient, and I support him, as difficult as it is for me to admit that.

Sending Americans into battle is the most profound decision a president can make. The technologies of war have changed. The risks and suffering of war have not. For the brave Americans who bear the risk, no victory is free from sorrow. This Nation fights reluctantly, because we know the cost, and we dread the days of mourning that always come.

We seek peace. We strive for peace. And sometimes peace must be defended. A future lived at the mercy of terrible threats is no peace at all. If war is forced upon us, we will fight in a just cause and by just means - sparing, in every way we can, the innocent. And if war is forced upon us, we will fight with the full force and might of the United States military - and we will prevail. And as we and our coalition partners are doing in Afghanistan, we will bring to the Iraqi people food, and medicines, and supplies … and freedom.

We Americans have faith in ourselves - but not in ourselves alone. We do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them, placing our confidence in the loving God behind all of life, and all of history.

May He guide us now, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

I may not like him, but he was hard to argue with at the end.

Posted by Ryan at 01:57 AM | Comments (0)

January 28, 2003

Dems Decry State of the

Dems Decry State of the Union Pre-emptively
Party Leaders Adopt New Strategy For Disagreeing With Everything Bush Says

Washington D.C.- Jan. 28, 2002: Top Democratic leaders today poked holes in President Bush's State of the Union Address, a surprising move considering the address has yet to be given.

Standing on the steps of the White House, Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle spoke with reporters. His tone was serious as he blasted Bush repeatedly about items he imagined were contained in the President's address.

"If the President thinks the Democratic Party will blindly fall into line while he makes plans to construct a space platform from which he will launch a nuclear attack against Spain and Portugal, well he has another thing coming," said Daschle. "Of course, he never said anything even remotely to that effect, and it's doubtful he'll say that in his address, but if he did, I can assure you we will fight him toe to toe."

Among other items Daschle said he would disagree with should Bush mention them include a full scale invasion into Canada, restructuring the Supreme Court to include 10 Lords a Leaping, Nine Ladies Dancing and A Partridge in a Pear Tree, and requiring all Americans to work, during the non-growing seasons, on large pyramids.

"I mean, what is that man thinking, if he's actually thinking these things?" asked Daschle. "I don't know about you, but I refuse to push a single stone just because Bush may or may not tell me to during his address."

The pre-emptive Democratic strike represents a new aspect to their strategy of strenuously objecting to everything proposed by the President. Widely criticized as a party without direction, the Democrats have struggled to gain parity with the GOP.

"I don't think we're struggling at all," objected Daschle. "Now, the Republicans, a party headed by a President who wants to declare Texas the only state where Americans will be allowed to live, that's a party that's struggling. I tell you, I'm incensed by the State of the Union address I'm imagining, and I won't stand for it."

Posted by Ryan at 02:01 PM | Comments (1)

A Thunderous, Disgusting Woman My

A Thunderous, Disgusting Woman

My recent post about being the first to sit in the Naughty Chair in kindergarten got me thinking about other elementary school anecdotes, and no elementary school anecdote rings quite as loud as the year I spent huddled in fear of my 5th grade teacher, Emma B.

Emma B. was a hateful, thunderous, disgusting woman who had no business roaming the halls of elementary children. I'm convinced she hated all people, but she held a special place in her black heart for children. She tormented kids both physically and mentally, and there wasn't one student in the entire school who didn't jump in their seats when Emma would shout "Can it!" and her voice would carry to five classrooms down the hall.

An unhygienic mass of blobby flesh, Emma B. apparently did everything she could to be both horrifying to behold and to endure. An immense woman, she consistently wore sheer white shirts that clearly outlined her collection of filthy bras. Her hair was always drawn tightly behind her head in a bun held in place with a greasy piece of leather and wooden pin. The lack of any bangs clearly showed off a massive mole, as round as a thumb tack, protruding from the direct center of her forehead. It was if she were determined to look as ugly and ghastly as possible. I hated going up to her desk because she perpetually stank of unchecked body odor and breath polluted with hastily ingested cigarettes and cups upon cups of coffee.

More than her terrifying appearance was her reputation for humiliating and hurting students. I first experienced the wrath of Emma in third grade when I was poking the kid in front of me in the lunch line. Suddenly, my tiny wrist was burning with pain as Emma dug her fingernails deep into my flesh and flung me out of the line and against the wall. I can't remember what she yelled at me, but I remember inhaling her horrid breath and trying to wiggle my wrist free from her clawlike grasp, prompting her to dig her nails in further while gnashing her fingers back and forth. She drew blood before finally flinging me back in line, and I shook with fear for what seemed like forever.

I dreaded my 5th grade year, knowing that I had drawn Emma B. as my homeroom teacher. I wanted to tell my parents about how horrible she was, and how afraid I was of her, but there was a part of me, and of all students really, that believed Emma had to be there for a reason. Who were we, mere students, to question the ways of the adults? We kept quiet and just did our best not to piss Emma off. Of course, that was impossible, because Emma was always pissed off. She hated her life, and she took it out on the students.

My 5th grade year was hell, really. There's no other way to explain living each and every school day in total fear of getting into trouble, even if you weren't causing trouble. Emma would find excuses to torment. Brian, wno sat right next to me, wasn't sure where the construction paper was when he was instructed to go get some for each student. Emma responded by yanking him out of his desk and pushing him towards the cupboards. Brian was small, and with Emma's punishing strength, he looked like a rag doll. He handed out the construction paper trembling, tears dribbling from his cheeks. He was terrified, and his shoulder had been strained.

For my part, I once got caught talking during class (I know, it's shocking), and Emma promptly drew a circle on the blackboard, pitched me out of my desk in Emma B. style, and then biffed me in the back of my head so my nose squashed hard against the chalkboard in the direct center of the circle. She warned that, if my nose moved from the circle, unless she said it was okay, I wouldn't like what would happen. I would have stood there for an entire week if it meant not enduring additional Emma torment. I didn't feel ridiculous, or shamed. I was simply interested in self-preservation at that point.

The only time Emma was ever even remotely sweet was when the principal would sit in on a class. Then she was sickeningly nice, praising students and exercising patience unheard of otherwise. We all wanted to shout, "This isn't the real Emma! The real Emma is trying to kill us!"

What the students didn't know was that the administration was meticulously building a case against Emma, which had to be thorough because the evil beast had tenure. How does someone like that get tenure? Like "how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop," the world may never know.

I was in 7th or 8th grade, well out of the clutches of Emma, by the time the administration was ready to act. They had their case built, and all they needed was an incident to get the ball rolling. Emma B. obliged by tossing around one of the most vocal young female students Emma ever made the mistake of mauling. The student yowled and howled to parents and teachers alike, and the administration swooped in on Emma like a pack of angry dogs. They had her, and they knew they had her, but she still had to have a formal hearing and all that jazz.

And my father was selected by the teacher's union to defend her. It was a cruel twist of fate that the woman I believed to be synonymous with "complete bitch" was allowed inside my house, while my father, who hated his assigned task, was forced to work with her on a defense. Justice was swift, because Emma really had no defense, and she was sent packing. The last I heard, she was working in a clothing store.

Emma, wherever you are, I hope you're facing a chalk circle, preferably one that was drawn around you at a crime scene.

Posted by Ryan at 12:12 PM | Comments (1)

January 27, 2003

News Flash: Raider Fans Channel

News Flash: Raider Fans Channel Their Inner Ralph Wiggum

There I was, slacking at work, wondering how Raider fans were coping with their crushing defeat, when I came across this article. Apparently, Ralph Wiggum is a Raiders fan. "The Raiders dressed themselves!" Ralph was reported to have said after the Raiders decided to spot the Bucs an insurmountable lead. If you'll remember, the fans set their town ablaze last week after defeating the Titans. So, how do they react to a crushing Super Bowl defeat?

Unruly fans set several cars on fire, tossed bus stop benches into the street, burned Christmas trees, broke car windows and blocked parts of International Boulevard in East Oakland following the Raiders' Super Bowl loss Sunday night.

Excuse me, but Christmas trees? What the hell are they still doing with Christmas trees? Did they save them just for this purpose?

``They're just trying to get everybody off the street, but we're just trying to have fun,'' said Jaunel Williams, 14, an eighth-grader at Oakland's Calvin Simmons Middle School, as he covered his face with a T-shirt. (he had just been hit with tear gas) ``This stuff burns my eyes and throat.''

Really? Tear gas burns your eyes and throat? Who knew? With insightful commentary like that, he could be the next John Madden.

``They're playing like they don't want to win,'' said John Carroll, 67, who was so despondent that he turned away from the game during the third quarter to smoke cigarettes outside the Club New Yorker on East 18th Street in Oakland.

Can you imagine being so depressed that you tuck a carton of Winstons under your arm and you go outside with the sole purpose of puffing down heaters until the tears flow no more?

``They are making asses of themselves between fumbles, sacks and interceptions,'' said Carroll, a lifelong East Oakland resident. ``They are playing worse than a normal high school football team.''

Oh, I was confused. I thought they were making asses of themselves DURING fumbles, sacks and interceptions. And if the Raiders' play reflected the skills shown by "normal" high school football teams, I sure wouldn't want to watch a "bad" high school football team.

Added Debbie Nobrega-Tabarez, 40, of Oakland, who was wearing a gray and black mask that looked as though she had painted her face: ``I was crying until half time, and then I stopped crying.''

Seriously, people, I'm not making this stuff up. Oakland fans actually said these things. Is everyone from Oakland sipping from the same bucket of "duh?"

``I didn't see enough heart in the game,'' said Michael Carter, a die-hard fan who spent the night at Smitty's, an Oakland bar on Grand Avenue near Lake Merritt. ``It seemed like Tampa wanted to win more.''

You mean because they won? Yeah, that would be a good indication. Sheesh *rolling eyes*

Posted by Ryan at 04:50 PM | Comments (1)

New computer Versus The Super

New computer Versus The Super Bowl

So, I have this fantastic new computer that I paid $1,200 for. I mean it's great. It has, like, a 90.8 Ghz processor (kept cool with 7,000 fans that all sound like jet engines), a 589 GB hard drive capable of storing more porn than I'll ever be able to view in my lifetime, more memory than the collective interconnected minds of the Matrix (minus Neo, because he's "The One"), a video card so advanced it actually hasn't been invented yet, and Windows XP, which is a lot like all the other Windows operating systems, particularly when it comes to restarting it after installing any new software. I mean, this computer is the shit!

Except it doesn't work.

Okay, it works, it just doesn't work correctly. For some flipping reason, it won't connect directly to the Internet. Now, before all you tech gurus can utter, "Have you tried. . .," let me just assure you that, yes, I have tried EVERYTHING. And when I say I've tried EVERYTHING, I mean I've had all my friends try EVERYTHING, and then I had a Charter Communications guy walk along with me (er, via telephone) and try EVERYTHING.

In the end, the ONLY way I can get online was to connect through a router. That's right, in order to access the Internet, my computer demands that it first be connected through a router. I have no idea why, and my friends have no idea why. That's just the way it is. If my computer were a cat, it would turn up its nose at every cat food I put under its nose, preferring to eat out of the garbage and catch mice. Stupid cat computer.

Well, once I got online, I couldn't wait to start playing games online. I mean, Aliens Versus Predator 2 and Jedi Outcast were just screaming my name. Unfortunately, the Super Bowl was also screaming my name (which of course means my name must be Tampa Bay).

Actually, the only thing screaming about last night's Super Bowl was John Madden. Does that guy have any volume besides loud? The dumber he sounds, the louder he gets, I swear. When he pointed out that Oakland had to get some points on the board, I had to put him on mute. Are you sure, John? Are you sure it wouldn't be more prudent for Oakland to subtract some points? Sheesh. The sickening part is, that man gets paid gobs and gobs of money to say shit like that. I say stupid things every day. Every single day! And do I ever see a penny for my non-brilliance? Hell no. John Madden is such a fucker.

I don't want to talk about the game. A blowout is a blowout is a blowout. Congrats to the Bucs, and condolences to Rich Gannon, er, the Raiders. All due respect to Rich Gannon, but he was aware that he was supposed to throw the ball to guys wearing black and silver, right? Well, anyway, I'd rather talk about the half time show.

Where was Darth Twain's lightsaber? I mean, I tried to focus entirely on her chest, but that cape thing she wore kept drawing my attention. What WAS that, anyway? Come to think of it, a lightsaber would have been a lot more useful than the microphone she wasn't singing into. Come on, this was the Super Bowl, and really, all she did was walk around. Surely she could have found it within herself to actually sing rather than lip sync.

No Doubt's Gwen Stefani managed to use her own voice, after all, and she was doing pushups, and jumping around, and wearing more make-up than a circus clown. Sure, she sounded a tad winded at times, but at least she was actually singing. That's what makes live performances fun to watch. The sound is unique. Stefani at least brought some energy to a Super Bowl that was deflated for almost the entire game. Sorry, Shania, but the Force wasn't with you. Now go change into something that shows off your ass.

Oh yeah, I guess Sting also sang for real. He always sounds the same, and he always looks like he's auditioning for the role of the main bad guy in some movie.

Then, the third quarter started, and I got totally embroiled in an awesome game of Aliens Versus Predators 2. I mean, I totally kicked butt for a change. Those little Runner aliens can really rock once you get over the nausea inherent in climbing along walls and ceilings. Still, as Gollum might say, "We hatessss the marinesss with the chain gunsss." My old system used to have trouble running AvP, but my new computer breezes through it. I figure I have about four years before I have to build anew. Okay, that's being generous, I'll admit.

Still, I really do like this new cranky, picky computer of mine. It's Da Shit!

Posted by Ryan at 03:34 PM | Comments (1)

January 24, 2003

Shaming Mr. Shameless The other

Shaming Mr. Shameless

The other day, Mel asked if anything embarrased me. I had to think about that one, because I couldn't honestly remember the last time I felt embarrassed, about anything. There could be a crowd of 10,000 people pointing and laughing at me, for whatever reason, and I'd simply try to make even more of an ass of myself, just so they keep laughing at me. It's hard for me to feel shame.

A blog reader once asked whether I was afraid Mel, or my parents, would ever stumble across my blog. Well, my mother did find it, and she tried to scold me for being so honest and for being (get ready) "a potty mouth." All I could do was laugh at her. My mother's solution? She doesn't read me any more. And Mel reads me all the time, but the only thing she gets upset about is that I don't blog about her enough. Whatever.

I didn't always have such a thick skin. There was a time when I was terrified of making a mistake, or making a clown of myself in crowds, or just pissing people off. For a foolish stretch of time in high school, I genuinely believed it was possible to go through life making everybody happy. If I just didn't rock the boat, and got good grades, and kissed the appropriate number of asses, I could go through life unnoticed and unshamed. Starting sometime in college, however, I just started not caring any more. So long as goofing off and being an occasional prick doesn't translate into a gun in my face, I realized, it doesn't really matter.

Not so in elementary school. No, back in those formative years, teachers and classmates used shame as a powerfully effective tool. In a time when you were supposed to snap into line and do as you're told, being singled out was the equivalent of facing a firing squad.

I really wasted no time getting my first taste of genuine grade school shame. I was in kindergarten, and all the students sat, in alphabetical order according to name, on a big green rug in the middle of the classroom. Just for the record, I should admit that I had no idea what alphabetical order meant at the time. I just knew there was a certain spot on the green rug I usually sat.

Well, back in my kindergarten days, we had what was referred to as milk monitors, or children specifically chosen to walk down the hall to retrieve milk for the other students. This required counting skills, which I hadn't quite mastered yet, so I was not qualified to be a milk monitor.

However, one day, the milk monitors were taking a long time retrieving the milk, so our teacher quickly selected a "milk monitor monitor" to go to the door to see what was taking so long. I wasn't paying particular attention at the time, because I was busy looking out the window daydreaming. When I came back to reality, I noticed that the person usually seated next to me was gone. Where did he go? My eyes scanned frantically until I found him standing outside the door, looking down the hall at something.

"What is he looking at?" I wondered. "Why was he chosen to go look? Am I next? What if I'm next? Oh no! I better do something! Anything!"

So, I stood up and walked over to the door, my legs shaking because I was taking a HUGE gamble here, assuming that I was next for whatever it was that was going on. All the other kids looked at me in stunned disbelief. What was I doing? I looked back at my little spot of green rug, and there was no other place I wanted to be. But, I had committed myself to whatever it was I was doing, and there was no going back. Then, it happened. . .

"Ryan Rhodes!" barked Mrs. Klauss, the teacher. "What do you think you're doing?!"

Well, obviously, I had no idea what I was doing. I just thought I was next for whatever it was I next for, and that it mysteriously involved standing outside the door and staring down the hall. Therefore, I had no answer for Mrs. Klauss.

"Come over here, Ryan," she said, pointing to the floor in front of her desk.

I did as I was told, and I stood there in front of Mrs. Klauss for what seemed like an eternity, so terrified I was considering peeing my pants. I couldn't see the kids behind me, but I knew they were there, happily seated on their assigned spots of green rug, all of them wondering if Mrs. Klauss was going to kill me or not.

"Okay, Ryan. Go sit in the Naughty Chair."

Not the "Naughty Chair!" Anything but the "Naughty Chair!" Couldn't she just drive colored chalk into my eyes? Surely that would be better than enduring the "Naughty Chair!"

The Naughty Chair was nothing more than a simple tot-sized desk, actually. It was positioned right next to Mrs. Klauss's big person desk, and it faced the rest of the class. Therein was its true evil. Facing the rest of the class, and in turn the rest of the class facing you, laid bare the inescapable fact that you got in trouble. It was a shame device of the highest order, and I was the first to sit in it.

I remember when Mrs. Klauss first introduced us to the Naughty Chair, and I remember thinking that I, good little boy Ryan Rhodes, would never have to place my bottom on its shame ridden seat. And yet, there I was, not only sitting in it, but breaking it in. How could I be the first?! This can't be happening! Oh, cruel, cruel world!

"Now, put your head down, Ryan," said Mrs. Klauss, and I did as instructed.

So there I sat, my head resting on the unforgiving formica, while my unseen classmates giggled and played and drank their milk on the shaggy green rug. I wanted to die.

Nowadays, it's quite a trick for me to feel shame or to be embarrased, but if I ever again bump into Mrs. Klauss, and she instructs me to sit in the Naughty Chair with my head down, I could very well burst into tears.

Posted by Ryan at 11:57 AM | Comments (2)

January 23, 2003

To Sims Or Not To

To Sims Or Not To Sims

Ryan says: I still have your Sims house party thing to return.

Jen says: Oh. Ok. No rush.

Jen says: Do I still have your Sims?

Jen says: The original game?

Ryan says: Yes.

Ryan says: You need it, I suppose.

Jen says: No, I don't. I can return it.

Ryan says: I already have it.

Jen says: I've been playing Sims on Playstation 2.

Ryan says: What you talkin' bout, Willis?

Jen says: You already have it?

Jen says: No no, I asked if I still have your original Sims CDs.

Ryan says: Yes.

Ryan says: I mean, no.

Jen says: Gah.

Jen says: You have it.

Jen says: ?

Jen says: My bwain hurts.

Ryan says: I have it. No.

Ryan says: I mean, yes.

Ryan says: Me have Sims. You not.

Jen says: Stop it!!

Jen says: *calms down*

Ryan says: Sims I have, yes? Jen has not the Sims, no?

Jen says: Right.

Ryan says: So, let's see if I have this right. . .

Jen says: NO!

Ryan says: The Sims that is mine, my Sims, which was for a time your's, but really not, because it was mine, but just with you, is back with me, because it's mine and not your's, although you had it for a time. Right?

Jen says: Right.

Ryan says: I think I'm beginning to understand.

Ryan says: So, the question still remains. . .

Jen says: Bad Ryan!

Jen says: No!

Ryan says: When can I expect you to give back the Sims that I have.

Ryan says: ?

Jen says: Never!

Posted by Ryan at 03:08 PM | Comments (1)

Snow Use Complaining, But Damn

Snow Use Complaining, But Damn It's Cold

I emerged from the house this morning, and immediately I knew it was cold. The plumes coming from the neighborhood chimneys were thicker than normal, and some seemed to be frozen in time. The key seemed to actually fight back as I tried to plunge it into the ignition, and the ignition itself turned only with great effort.

Now, I own a reliable Cadillac Eldorado, and it has ALWAYS started for me. For a brief moment this morning, however, I thought my Caddy's starting streak was about to come to an end. It issued a labored, drawn-out hacking sound, not unlike an aged substitute high school teacher hawking thick phlegm into a tattered hanky, totally grossing out the students. *hack. . .hack. . .hack. . .hack. . .hack*

"Geez," I said aloud. "How freaking cold is it, for crying out loud?"

With a last hack, my car came to life, and I looked down at the digital temperature display to see what the outside temp actually was: - 8. Any time my car has to precede a number with a dash, chances are it's not a good thing. Negative eight degrees! fuck, it's cold! For you metric Europeans, with your super-modern measuring techniques, -8 degrees Fahrenheit translates into -22.22 degrees Celsius. Oy. Then again, it's 250.9 degrees Kelvin, so that sounds pretty warm. It's also -17.78 degrees Reaumur.

What the fuck is Reaumur? Answer: The Reaumur temperature scale is named after the French scientist Rene Antoine Ferchault de Reaumur (1683-1757). He proposed his temperature scale, in 1731. Reaumur divided the fundamental interval between the ice and steam points of water into 80 degrees, fixing the ice point at 0 Degrees and the steam point at 80 degrees.

Seriously, don't the French have anything better to do besides sitting around dividing the fundamental interval between the ice and steam points of water into 80 degrees?

Ah, but negative eight degrees was only the still air temperature. We hearty Minnesotans, however, want to hear about things like wind chill. According to the radio announcer, the wind chill factor translated into -33 Fahrenheit. That's -36.11 Celsius! That's 237 degrees Kelvin, which still sounds pretty warm. And, for you uppity French folks with your strange ice and steam dabbling, that's -28.89 degrees Reaumur!

It's so chilly out, even the snow is complaining about the cold. I love Minnesota, but our winters really, truly, absolutely fucking suck.

Posted by Ryan at 01:32 PM | Comments (1)

January 22, 2003

Whoops, I Did it Again

Whoops, I Did it Again

What a shock. Apparently, I've pissed off yet another Web surfer who unwittingly visited my site. So enraged was she, that she even dropped me an e-mail. I guess she took offense to the Britney Spears/Christina Aguilera barb in the upper right corner. But, don't take my word for it:

You are obviously an undersexed tool with too much time on your hands. Britney Spears is a beautiful and talented woman and you have no business attacking her in such a sophomoric fashion. Get a life. Or, more appropriately, drop dead.

*pause to remove literary knives from torso and drip Visine into my scratched eyeballs*

Well, EXCUUUUUUUUSE me! Okay, lady, you're asking for it. I can handle being called "sophomoric" and "undersexed," but saying Britney Spears is "beautiful and talented" is simply more than I can take.

Britney Spears is NOT talented. For the past three years, I've had to watch that giggly Jenna Jameson look alike parade her body on television and call it talent. Fine, she can probably sing better than me, and she'd probably make it a few rounds into American Idol before the British dude told her off, but she reached super stardom solely because she was packaged like a pornstar lolita. She was the music industry equivalent of Traci Lords.

Worse, she convinced hundreds of thousands of young girls that the way to get noticed in life is to bare your tummy, push up your tits, and show off your ass. Just for the record, I'm for all of that, but not when its paraded around by 12 to 17 year-olds. Combine that fashion trend with schools full of young men new to the effects of testoserone running through their veins, and you have the makings of a sexual frustration extravaganza. Here's a head scratcher for you: surround boys with half-naked girls and try to explain the Bush doctrine of "abstinance only" sexual education to them. Ah, but the inherent flaws of "abstinance only" sex ed is a different gripe for a different day.

More than just her shameless tart persona, and her conspicuous lack of talent, was the fact that her sugary brand of pop just represented, in my mind, everything that was wrong with popular music: the pre-fabricated boy bands playing God-awful songs were the pretty boy equivalent of Britney Spears. Even Shakira, a young woman with actual talent, was forced to dye her hair and shed most of her clothes to really break into the business in America. And let's not forget Christina Aguilera; she has an awesome voice, but OH. . .MY. . .GOD is she a hopeless tramp or what? Tiffany (you remember Tiffany from the 80s, right?) believed it would help her comeback cause if she showed off her giant bazooms in Playboy first. Has anyone heard from her since? I was really beginning to wonder if, for female musicians, the road to stardom meant checking their morals at the front door.

Then, thankfully, I heard a song by Nora Jones on MusicMatch radio one summer afternoon. I downloaded it and a few others, and then I set out searching for more info about her. I was shocked to see her wearing clothes, and a sensible amount of clothes for that matter. And, perhaps more importantly, her music was actually good. Really damned good. Could it be that a talented female musician could make it big without being a whore? I could only hope. So far, she has withstood the test of time, although it's been a short stretch of time to be sure.

I don't profess to be a fan of Avril Lavigne, a name that sounds like some new brand of headache medicine (take two Avril Lavigne every 8 to 10 hours), but I do like the fact that she's not Britney Spears in every way that matters. She dresses in clothes, for one thing, and that's a great start. Second, she doesn't sing about being a whore; she sings about things that high school students can actually relate to. In short, she's a decent role model. Not a great role model, but a decent one.

The music industry analysts are saying that the Nora Joneses and the Avril Lavignes are poised to squash the sickening pop standards set by Britney and the boy bands, and I sincerely hope so. Really, it all sounds so much the same it's like listening to the Legend of Zelda theme playing in a continuous loop. It's time for fresh sounds and new looks.

So long, Britney, write when you get work, preferably on the set of a low budget porn flick. You've gotta focus on your strengths after all, and they sure as hell don't include music.

Posted by Ryan at 01:34 PM | Comments (1)

January 21, 2003

There's No Dignified Way to

There's No Dignified Way to Get Hit in the Nuts

I got hit in the nuts tonight. Hard. I got hit hard in the nuts tonight.

We were working knife disarming techniques, and I had a rubber knife and was attacking. The young man who was defending tried to kick the knife from my hand just as I backed up. The end result was a foot planted square in my groin. I let out a quick yelp, and then I hit the mat face first, bracing for the inevitable wave of pain that was sure to follow.

Now, getting hit in the dangly bits (a Gudy term) is bad enough. Whether male or female, you know that a lot of nerves meet up at the groin, and getting hit there is something both sexes take great pains to avoid. For guys, this is especially true, because our most favorite organ also comes into play.

Yes, getting hit in the nuts sucks, but it's made even worse when there's a crowd around to witness it. Take tonight, for example. There I was, writhing around in pain, desperately waiting for it to subside just enough so I could drag myself to a halfway standing position, and there were about 14 other people standing around watching my misery. Then, to top all that off, I had the head instructor trying to help me through the pain, reminding me to take deep breaths, as if he were my personal gonadal lamaze coach.

I certainly don't mean to to bitch about my instructor's efforts. He was just concerned and trying to help me out after all. But, seriously, the last thing I want after getting hit in the nuts is somebody telling me how to deal with the pain. I've been hit in the nuts many times before, so I'm familiar with the recovery process. Wince -> Groan -> Roll around in fetal position -> Sweat -> Whimper -> Try to stand like a newborn calf -> Walk it off. So, the instructor's help was not welcome, and in fact it only served to announce further to the class that I had been hit in the nuts. Nothing like having an attentive class so intimately aware of my shame.

People who witness a nut whacking incident treat the victim weird afterwards, like he is now a carrier of some strange disease. "Oh, you got hit in the nuts? I'm so sorry. Could you step back a bit? I don't want to catch whatever smashed nut syndrome you now may have." Think I'm kidding? Give yourself a good nut whacking amidst a crowd of onlookers some time and see how differently they treat you.

Back in my high school wrestling days, if someone took a shot to the nads, the coach would announce the situation to the entire wrestling room, and everyone would stop the workout and . . . applaud. That's right, they would applaud. This had a two part effect. On the one hand, the victim would be embarrassed. On the other hand, the victim would become indescribably pissed off. "How DARE they applaud my misery!" The situation, for me, was made incalculably worse because the coach was my dad.

So you see, there really is no dignified way to get hit in the nuts. However, if you'd like to prove me wrong, go right ahead and try. I'd love to hear all about it.

Posted by Ryan at 10:55 PM | Comments (1)

Now That's Fanaticism Well, it

Now That's Fanaticism

Well, it turns out that bin Laden may have escaped the American dragnet in Tora Bora simply by handing off his cell phone to a lackey. Don't believe me? Well, it's right here. Try to ignore the fact that bin Laden's snarled face graces the top of the page. I swear, if I ever see that man's face again, it had better have a hefty spear through it. At least then I could stomach looking at the man. Seriously, any time I see footage of the towers crumbling, and then I see bin Laden, I literally want to attack the screen and rake that bastard's eyes from his sockets. Anyhoooooo. . .

RABAT, Morocco, Jan. 21 — With U.S. forces closing in on him during the battle of Tora Bora in late 2001, Osama bin Laden employed a simple feint against sophisticated U.S. spy technology to vanish into the mountains that led to Pakistan and sanctuary, according to senior Moroccan officials.

It's one of the dangers of today's high technology world: we sometimes become so dependant on it, we forget some of our most basic human skills, like information gathering. Spy technology has its place, yes, but we can't simply dispose of good old fashioned human spy work.

A MOROCCAN who was one of bin Laden's longtime bodyguards took possession of the al Qaeda leader's satellite phone on the assumption that U.S. intelligence agencies were monitoring it to get a fix on their position, said the officials, who have interviewed the bodyguard, Abdallah Tabarak. Tabarak moved away from bin Laden and his entourage as they fled; he continued to use the phone in an effort to divert the Americans and allow bin Laden to escape. Tabarak was captured at Tora Bora in possession of the phone, officials said.

BIN LADEN: Tabarak, here, take my phone!

TABARAK: No, you take it! I don't want to hold on to that missile magnet. Are you crazy?

BIN LADEN: Tabarak, I must live in order that I may continue the struggle against the Americans and their filthy Western ideals and technologies. Now, take my Qualcomm cellular phone and move away from me so I don't get splattered with your blood when the American satellites zero in on my phone's position and infidel missiles are launched.

TABARAK: This is sooo not what I signed up for.

But now, ladies and gentlemen, we get to the most wonderful part of the article, the part that just left me laughing for ten minutes.

"He agreed to be captured or die," a Moroccan official said of Tabarak. "That's the level of his fanaticism for bin Laden. It wasn't a lot of time, but it was enough. There is a saying: ‘Where there is a frog, the serpent is not far away.' "

What the hell are those Moroccans smoking? "He agreed to be captured or die. That's the level of his fanaticism for bin Laden." Well, excuse me, but what the hell else were his options? Hmmmm, I could be captured, or I could die. I guess I'll choose captured.

TABARAK: You'll never take me alive, you infidel scum!! Actually, that doesn't sound so bad after all! I'm coming out now, because I don't want to die! I am giving you permission to capture me!

Yeah, that's definite fanaticism there. Forget going down in a massive firefight to protect bin Laden's cell phone. Tabarak wisely chose to be captured instead.

More than a year later, Tabarak, 43, has established himself as the "emir" or camp leader of the more than 600 suspected al Qaeda and Taliban members being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to senior officials here who have visited the military compound twice to interview Moroccan citizens.

I guess being the leader of a prison full of inmates entails a certain amount of prestige, but he's still just a common prisoner. Let him claim all the titles he wants, I guess, so long as he's safely behind a mesh of razor wire.

Some of the prisoners, by symbolically holding daylong fasts on the orders of Tabarak, have maintained some semblance of a command structure in defiance of U.S. attempts to isolate and break them, Moroccan officials said.

I wonder if they'd hold Tabarak in such high regard if they knew about his "die or be captured" standoff.

Tabarak, also known as Abu Omar, is respected even more because he helped bin Laden escape, the official said. The ploy involving the satellite phone is widely known and celebrated among the prisoners at the military prison, now called Camp Delta.

It's kind of sad to think that playing hot potato with a cellular phone constitutes a great victory.

INMATE #1: Hey, remember that great story about Tabarak taking bin Laden's phone to throw off the Americans?

INMATE #2: Yeah, that is a great story, and it is one that will be told for generation to come. Long live bin Laden!

INMATE #1: Um, yeah, so what do you want to do for the rest of the day?

INMATE #2: I don't know. I guess we could fast or something.

INMATE #1: Hey, that could be fun. But, nah, I did that yesterday. Besides, the American infidels are feeding us chicken cordon bleu today. I don't want to miss that.

INMATE #2: That right. I guess I won't fast either.

*ten minute break in conversation*

INMATE #1: Hey, remember that great story about Tabarak taking bin Laden's phone to throw off the. . .

INMATE #2: Yeah, yeah. I've heard it.

Posted by Ryan at 11:57 AM | Comments (1)

January 20, 2003

"More News From the Nose,"

"More News From the Nose," c. Ryan Rhodes, Jan. 13, 2003

In one of my recent columns I described, in probably more detail than most readers would have liked, my childhood memories of getting a button stuck up my nose and my unwitting inhalation of Endust cleaner, which momentarily got me high and made me topple off my windowsill perch. You'd think I'd reminisce about some good childhood memories from time to time, but this is the material with which I choose to work.

Well, that column generated more e-mail responses than you could sneeze at. Okay, in actuality, it generated seven e-mail responses, and if you tried I'm sure you could sneeze at each of them. But, why would you? Surely you have something better to do than sneeze at e-mails, you oddball.

>From Aubrey: You should have put a warning to young readers as you know many will try any stunt. Here come the lawsuits for Rambling Rhodes. The Endust incident now explains many things to us. Unless of course this just happened?

Just for the record, I don't believe stuffing a button up my nose or inhaling Endust really qualify as "stunts." Jumping the Grand Canyon on a motorcycle is a stunt. Inhaling Endust was a dumb and dangerous thing I did as a toddler, and that also prompted a massive headache for hours afterward. I also like to blame Endust for my early hair loss, my weak ankles, and the current slump in the economy. Beware the Endust, my friends. Beware.

>From Jody: The Endust story explains a lot about you.

Okay, short though that comment was, I can't help but believe it was just meant to be mean. Fortunately, I thrive on mean comments. Still, Jody may have a point. Perhaps my Endust sniffing incident actually rewired my brain and turned me into a super human. Perhaps the Endust is responsible for my current status as a smoking hot specimen of male hunkiness.

Or, perhaps none of this is true. After a quick online search, I found out that Endust is marketed simply as a no-wax formula that removes dust, soil and surface wax buildup. Not a single mention about its ability to cause a toddler to topple off windowsills after inhalation. How strange.

Okay, I get it, readers, you think I'm odd and that Endust may have something to do with it. Let's move on to e-mails that don't have anything to do with me.

>From Jackie: My niece once got a pussywillow stuck up her nose. Wouldn't that tickle you crazy?

Well, yes, but only because I've never been able to say "pussywillow" without giggling uncontrollably.

I remember when I first encountered a pussywillow branch outside my elementary school. I thought the little fuzzy balls were actually cocoons, so stuffing one up my nose was not an option. The next spring would come, I'd be called up in front of class to answer a question, and suddenly a butterfly would come fluttering out of my nose, but only after I writhed on the floor in agony as the butterfly first feasted on my tender Endust-damaged brain tissue.

Now of course I know that the soft little balls are actually buds, so maybe I should stuff one in my nose. Nah, I'm too old for that kind of nonsense. Or am I?

>From Becca: Hey, o-kay, I probably shouldn't tell you this, but I once got a blueberry stuck up my nose - not so bad if I had been a child, but I was in college! Just thought I'd share.

Yep, back in my college days, that was referred to as "Snorting a Blue B." Everybody was doing it, man. Gave you a killer buzz. Wait a minute, no it didn't. A blueberry in the nose? In college? And it wasn't part of a sorority initiation or anything?

I'd like to postulate how Becca managed to get a blueberry stuck in her nose, but I have to go out and buy a pair of nose plugs. Apparently, you can't be too careful nowadays.

Posted by Ryan at 10:53 PM | Comments (1)

I Wish I Had Said

I Wish I Had Said That, But Then, I'm Not a Woman

I rely on Anna Quindlan to say things I wish I could say. She's the thinking woman who says what she thinks, and damn she's good at it. But, don't take my word for it, clicky clicky here: http://www.msnbc.com/news/861238.asp?0dm=C12TO

Posted by Ryan at 02:51 PM | Comments (1)

Weekend Review This weekend can

Weekend Review

This weekend can be boiled down pretty much to a single term: Sleep. I got off work at 5 p.m. on Friday and drove to St. Paul to stay with the girl for the weekend. We were supposed to cook together.

Oh, for the record, two weekends ago, I introduced Mel to one of my favorite culinary discoveries from the the year I lived in Japan: Japanese Curry. This is isn't Indian curry, or the lame ass Jamaican curry, or the weak curry powders you find on American grocery shelves. No, this is Japanese curry, and I make it extra special because my parents, who live in Japan, are sure to bring back the main Japanese ingredients each year, thus satiating my occasional craving for the wonderful stuff.

I only share my Japanese curry cooking prowess with a few people, mainly because I like to hog it all for myself, but I thought Mel was ready to experience the wonder of Ryan's Japanese curry. The result? Yet another Japanese curry addict was born. She loved it so much, she wanted to cook it again when I got to St. Paul on Friday. She had even gone shopping to buy the other necessary curry components.

However, upon arriving in St. Paul, I realized my body wanted to be in a horizontal rather than a vertical position, so I plopped heavily into Mel's bed at about 7:15. Mel joined me without protest. I closed my eyes, and when I opened them I saw the clock had warped ahead to 11:30. Oh. Great. That pretty much meant I would be up until 3 a.m. Mel woke up with the same thought. We kicked around a couple of ideas. We could cook curry. We could go to a bar and ingest just enough spirits to ensure slumber. We could eat cookie dough.

We opted to eat cookie dough, approximately two cookies of cookie dough each, to be precise, and for some strange reason, that did the trick. So, from 12:15 to 11:15, I continued my sleep marathon. Mel could only hack sleeping until 9:30, at which time she got up and started doing some sort of chores. Having no chores of my own to do, I opted to complete my 15 hour sleep cycle. Ah, bliss.

Not surprisingly, I awoke with a considerable horde of energy, what with my body having spent the last 15 hours with nothing better to do than burn fat into energy, but finding no use for energy, turning the energy back into fat, and then back into energy. I apparently woke up during the energy-creation peak of the cycle, so I decided to go for a run around nearby Como Lake. In my eager enthusiasm to get my feet a' runnin', I forgot to check the weather. Hell, it was sunny, so it had to be warm. Right? Wrong. It was cold. Not just any cold, but Minnesota cold. The kind of cold that makes icicles look like warm fluffy pillows. And it was windy. So, here it was cold and windy, and I was running around a lake, a watery expanse not known for its ability to halt blowing wind.

So, there I was, running headlong into a harsh, bitter, angry cold wind, with exposed face and ears, because my idea of head protection is a loose bandana tied in skull cap fashion. The biting cold brought tears to my eyes, which quickly froze. Yet I pushed on, primarily because I knew that, once I got halfway around the lake, I would be able to run with the wind rather than against it. Como Lake isn't very big, maybe a mile-and-a-half around, which should have been nothing for me, a veteran of five mile treks. Still, when I finally started running with the wind, I felt as though I had run 10 miles while pulling a tractor.

What better way to recover from hypothermia than by taking a nice hour long nap? Which is exactly what I did, much to Mel's total and complete amazement. When I awoke again, Mel convinced me that we should try to do something, anything, besides sleep. I reluctantly agreed, even though the bed sure was still warm and inviting, but oh well.

We browsed a few shops on Grand St., one of the nicer shopping stretches in St. Paul. Our initial stop was a relatively new Chinese furniture and knick-knack shop, but I can't remember the name. For blog purposes the shop will be referred to as the Chinese shop with neat but really expensive shit (CSWNBRES). We looked around for about half an hour, when I noticed a unique wine rack, which was really a television entertainment center with a wine rack shoved where the TV usually sits. All for the palty sum of $1,600. Mel loved it.

"Honey, we should buy this together!" she said.

*Reset Brain* *Give puzzled look* *Furrow brow* *Utter disbelieving HAH!*

What? Buy what? Together what? What? What? What?

Now, I love Melissa, and I love the time we spend together, and I like buying her flowers and taking her out to eat. But, suddenly, I got the feeling she's looking to advance things to another level, a level I'm nowhere even close to entertaining. She wants to have a toothbrush at my place? Great. She wants to have deodorant? Terrific. She wants to leave some body lotions? Super! She wants to go halves on a Chinese wine rack that costs $1,600? SCREEEEEEECH! Whoa, horsies! Whoa! Come on, horsies! Please whoa!

"Um, I don't need. . . we don't need. . .I don't think we, I, er. . . *adjust common sense meter* We're not going to start buying furniture, baby." I finally said, and it took so much effort, I kind of needed a nap.

"But this would look great next to the bookcase in my apartment," she said, apparently oblivious to my apprehension.

I opted to file away the conversation into the "consult later" area of my brain. Mel and I apparently need to talk about our relationship and set some common boundaries. Thankfully, we won't see each other all this week because she's starting school again. Maybe some time and perspective will do us both some good.

Sunday rolled around, but not until after I indulged in an additional 10 hours of sleep. Mel and I finally got around to cooking the Japanese curry together and, no surprise, it was a culinary masterpiece. Man, that shit is good! Mel had to work at 4 p.m., so we said our tongue wrestling good-byes and I started the drive back to Rochester. I always enjoy the drive back to Rochester because I don't feel rushed. There's no timetable that I have to meet. I can just watch the world roll by and think easy thoughts. Car time can be pleasant time if you don't think of it as a chore, especially when you're safely encapsulated from the harsh Minnesota cold outside.

Once back on the home front, I took a quick nap, played Alien vs. Predator 2 for a couple of hours, and then went to bed at 11 p.m.

You can never have too much sleep on a weekend.

Posted by Ryan at 01:04 PM | Comments (1)

January 19, 2003

"Your Guide to weather Reporting"

"Your Guide to weather Reporting" c. Ryan Rhodes, Feb. 1, 2000

As much as I despise the winter season with its cold weather, massive snow accumulation, boredom inducing cabin fever, and overall miserable conditions, I do enjoy one treasured aspect: the winter weather news story. They always make me laugh.

Now, I'm not talking about weather stories that warn about approaching weather patterns. Those are at least useful. If I hear that there's a big winter storm heading my way, I take precautionary measures, like leaving work early, cooking a pizza, and taking a nap. No, the weather stories that make me laugh are the ones that appear during the days after a big storm.

People love to read weather stories, because people like to believe that the weather pattern they just endured was truly a historic experience. The very fact that they survived such a traumatic onslaught of Mother Nature's wrath is testimony to their hearty survival instincts. In this case, "survival instincts" include sitting in front of the TV, eating canned soup, and stealing sidelong glances out the window at the menacing storm outside.

I've read countless storm stories. Truth be told, I've even had to write quite a few. weather story content always includes a treasure trove of humorous creative writing. If you ever find yourself under deadline pressures to write a quality weather story (hey, it could happen), keep the following tips in mind.

Be generous with adjectives and personification. Storms are really no more than random weather events that coalesce in random locations during random times of the year. However, a weather story that leads off "A random weather event coalesced over Rochester and surrounding areas yesterday afternoon," just wouldn't grab a reader's attention. Instead, make the storm come alive, and give it some human characteristics to make it seem particularly menacing. liberally use such terms as "blanketed," "engulfed," "swirled," "blackened," and anything else that has an evil undertone.

You can never have too many facts and figures in a weather story. Sure, it may have just been a light dusting of snow that fell for a couple of hours during the afternoon, but a quick perusal of weather history and a little imagination can produce the award-winning sentence, "for one-third of the afternoon yesterday, area residents endured a winter onslaught that dumped 2.5 inches of snow, a snowfall total that ranks 53rd in the state's history." Really creative writers would say that "over one-sixth of a foot of snow fell." It's important to milk every measurement to achieve the maximum "wow" effect from the readers. Find out how many businesses and schools closed, and always do an airport check to see if any flights were canceled or delayed (there's always at least one, even without a storm). Are there cars in the ditch? Of course there are. Injuries? Don't forget those.

Never forget the human interest angle. Every storm, no matter how big or small, is bound to have affected the life of somebody, somewhere. Maybe the Kendall family down the road had a window broken by the wind, and the snow accumulated in their bathroom. Or perhaps their family dog was impaled when an icicle snapped off the garage. Keep an open ear for any such angle. Your readers will thank you for it. The chance to read about another person's misfortune will have the local coffee shop buzzing with good conversation for at least a week.

Never forget to focus on "what might have been." So, the storm missed you by 20 miles. So what? Now is the time to let speculation and conjecture run wild. People also like to read about how lucky they were to miss a horrific storm, so now is your chance to stoke that fire of interest. Twenty miles? In the whole scheme of things, and the vast expanse of the world, isn't that really just a "near miss?" How much snow "could have" fallen? Six inches (half a foot)? What are the chances that a storm could miss by such a slim margin?

These are questions that can be answered by your friendly National weather Service, a group of meteorology professionals who are always good for a menacing "what could have been" quote. "I don't know how that storm missed us," said Wayne Cloudburst, chief meteorologist at the National weather Service in LaCrosse, Wis. "If it had hit with its full potential, we wouldn't be having this conversation right now. Chances are I'd be floating dead in the Mississippi River, somewhere down by New Orleans. We were really lucky."

So, the next time there's a big weather event of Satanical proportions about to engulf your area, be sure to read the newspaper the next day. Even if your dog was impaled by an icicle and your bathroom's full of snow, you're sure to get a good weather story laugh just the same.

Posted by Ryan at 07:01 PM | Comments (1)

January 17, 2003

And Your Point is What,

And Your Point is What, Exactly?

My recent rant about Brian Eno and his lament about an America gone astray after 9/11 prompted a couple thoughtful comments and one bird-poop-in-the-night link drop. I can handle anonymous comments. If someone reads my blog and doesn't agree, and they want to leave a comment without identifying themselves, fine, go ahead. This is America, so say what you want. You'll still be a giant chicken.

What irritated me about the phantom link dropper was that he/she (screw the correct grammar, I'm saying "they") dropped a link of which I was already fully aware: http://www.time.com/time/europe/gdml/peace2003.html

To appease the stealthy commenter, I'll even give you the full gist of the site. Quite simply, it's a purely unscientific poll conducted by Time Europe asking "Which country really poses the greatest danger to world peace in 2003?" You're given three choices: North Korea, Iraq, or the United States. Daintily Dirty has already offered up her own critique of the poll, and I highly recommend giving her a read for an differing view than what you'll get here. The numbers have shifted somewhat since her critique but, overwhelmingly (82.1 percent), respondents voted the United States. What a shock. Yawn.

Again, I have no idea who dropped the link, but I'm envisioning a weary Frenchman, sitting in front of his pink iMac, sipping a glass of wine, thinking, "Ah, take zis little bit of proof, you war hungry crazy American" *pause to puff thoughtfully on a cigarette* "Zose Americans are all ze same. Don't zey see how much ze rest of the ze world hates zem?"

You know what? The Time Europe poll is right. The world would be so much better off without America. So, let's disband into 50 separate countries and see how quickly the world unravels. Okay, let's not even be that radical, let's just completely disband our military, you know, everything. Bring our soldiers home from abroad, pull back from the nasty DMZ in Korea, pull up stakes all around Asia, and just let Europe and the world police itself entirely. The first thing you can expect is a pretty explosive situation in Israel, and a renewed "re-unification effort" on the part of the now nuclear-capable North Koreans. Of course, China would look the other way on that one because it would be busy re-establishing its hold on Taiwan. Unrestricted and unwatched terrorist groups would also be completely free to resume their attack on the morally collapsed Western infidels.

Actually, none of that would happen, because some European country, probably Great Britain, would have to step in to fill the void. Then, suddenly, everyone would be miffed at those no good Britons and their busy body policing efforts. I'm no fan of the Bush administration, but really, what options do they have? With the world getting smaller every day, we can't afford to sit on our hands. And really, the rest of the world can't afford the United States sitting on its hands either, no matter how much it may complain and say we're the biggest threat to world peace. The irony is, we're also the most likely entity to bring about world peace.

Perhaps Time Europe could asked an equally skewed question and put it in poll format. Namely, ask the general world population if Iraq would be better off without Saddam, or if North Korea would be better off without Kim Jong Il. Chances are, the vast majority of respondents would answer "Yes." *pause to puff thoughtfully on a cigarette* "But zey should not be forced out by military action. Let zere own people rise up and overthrow zere governments."

Newsflash people: Coups don't happen very often, and for a very simple reason. Dictators have a pretty nasty habit of decimating their own populations to retain power. Sure, Iraqis could take to the streets en mass chanting for Saddam's head, but it would be short lived in the face of tanks rolling toward them popping off rounds loaded with sarin gas. These are people who are trying to raise families and live lives. They're not about to foolishly believe they can overthrow Saddam without some sort of help (click here for pictures of help).

America isn't out to slaughter civilians. America isn't out to establish a global empire. America isn't just picking random fights. In the wake of 9/11, we've just realized that the world does need to change, and it's foolish, to say nothing of dangerous, to sit back and think problems will just take care of themselves. Because they don't. The Western world, not just America, has very real enemies, and they're not enemies who understand or play by the rules to which we in the civilized world have grown accustomed.

Conduct all the useless biased polls you want. The cold hard fact is the world needs the U.S., and it needs us to play hard occasionally. That's not arrogance, it's just a fact.

Posted by Ryan at 04:16 PM | Comments (1)

January 16, 2003

Where Are Those Damn Smoking

Where Are Those Damn Smoking Guns in Iraq?

Those slippery Iraqis just won't give up their goods. It's been an entertaining game, with the U.S. insisting Iraq is hiding weapons of mass destruction and Iraq insisting it does not. I know I've been laughing hysterically. Nothing prompts a good belly chuckle better than the thought of thousands of people dying with the release of chemical and biological agents.

But, really, I think the U.N. is going about their search all wrong. I mean, here they should be looking for weapons of mass destruction, but instead they're apparently searching for smoking guns. I mean, come on guys, keep your eyes on the ball.

I'm referring, of course, to this recent MSNBC.com article that reports empty warheads designed to carry chemical agents were found south of Baghdad. That, in itself, is pretty newsworthy. After all, if Iraq isn't developing chemical or biological weapons, then why do they need warheads designed to carry them?

What I found comical was this excerpt:

While the artillery rockets are evidence of an Iraqi weapons program, they may not amount to a "smoking gun" unless some sort of chemical agent is also detected, said U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity. The White House has threatened to use military force against Iraq if it fails to disclose its banned weapons programs and disarm, but has said it does not necessarily need to find a "smoking gun" to justify an attack. U.S. allies are pressing for solid evidence that Iraq is developing banned weapons. One U.S. official said, however, that the discovery did constitute a "smoldering gun."

So, there you have it. While the world waits, holding its breath in anticipation of an almost certain Gulf War II, U.S. officials are debating whether inspectors are finding smoking guns or smoldering guns. Hell, as long as they're making distinctions, maybe they could start rating Iraqi finds in terms of gun models.

REPORTER: Could you tell us what the recent discovery in Iraq of warheads designed to carry chemical weapons means for the impending war in the Gulf?

ARI FLEISCHER: Well, up until now, we've been operating under the belief that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, which pretty much amounts to an unsmoking .38 Special. Now, if the .38 Special were smoking, we'd be talking about the deployment of an additional 8,000 troops. Now, today, inspectors discovered the specially designed warheads, which shouldn't be in Iraq. Really, it's pretty much like finding an AK-47 with a flash suppresor and retractable stock. Again, it's not necessarily a smoking AK-47, but the barrel is perhaps a tad warm, and there may be powder residue, but that will take further inspecting.

REPORTER: There's a worldwide opinion that the U.S. shouldn't act unless it finds evidence amounting to the discovery of a .50 caliber Barrett sniper rifle. Would you care to comment on that?

ARI FLEISCHER: Well, it would still have to be a smoking sniper rifle, although a smoldering one may necessitate military intervention.

REPORTER: What happens if inspectors find a nuclear warhead?

ARI FLEISCHER: Again, it would depend on whether the warhead is smoking or not. . . hey, wait a minute. That was a trick question.

Here's my gripe. Maybe it's because the media or U.S. officials just don't believe the average American can wrap their mind around the concept of weapons of mass destruction, or maybe it's just because the terms smoking gun and smoldering gun just make for more dramatic narrative. Whatever the case, it does the reader a disservice by boiling the news down to unnecessary analogies.

We're on the verge of a war, a war that, arguably justifiable, stands to drastically change the world as we know it, for better or for worse. Given that, don't cheapen its importance by grasping for a meaningless analogy. I, for one, can understand the importance of finding warheads designed to carry chemical payloads. That's pretty self-explanatory.

And it doesn't have to be smoking.

Posted by Ryan at 09:18 PM | Comments (1)

College Enemies Revisited I know

College Enemies Revisited

I know it seems unbelievable, but I occasionally make enemies. This was not always the case. In high school, I was more determined to make friends with everyone than risk alienating myself from even the lowest cliques. I was the little A student, trying to keep my grades high so teachers would praise me, while also trying to hide my nerdish leanings from classmates who knew I was nerdy anyways. I didn't like the concept of enemies, and I really believed, if I tried hard enough, I could go through life without making them.

Alas, it was not to be. I made a bona fide enemy my senior year in Tokyo, without even trying really, and I was mortified to learn somebody didn't like me. As the year progressed, however, I started to enjoy the fact that somebody detested me. It was a relief to learn I could have an enemy and still pretty much live my day-to-day existence without it really affecting me in the least. I decided that maybe having enemies wasn't that big of a deal. After all, it made me more fully appreciate those who are my friends.

Well, college rolled around the next year, and it didn't take me much more than a couple of weeks to discover my first two college enemies were pretty close at hand; just across the dorm hall from me actually.

I didn't know them, but I hated them almost instantly. From what I could gather, they were a couple of ex-high school jocks who couldn't cut it in college athletics. Now, I played football, but not particularly well, and I wrestled fairly proficiently, but I never let it get to my head because, in the end, I preferred video games and nerding out. These two wonks, however, swaggered up and down the halls speaking far too loud about how great they thought they were, and playing over-animated games of catch with balled up socks. They liked to be seen and heard, and they insisted on leaving their door open at all times, whether they were blaring their God-awful music, or engaging in an irritating argument. I started referring to them as Wuss One and Wuss Two, because they addressed each other as "Wussy," "Wuss," or the degrading combination of "Wussy Wuss." Consider the following dialogue:

WUSS ONE: Hey, Wussy, what are you going to do tonight? Are we going to the casino or what?

WUSS TWO: fuck you, Wuss. I'm not going to decide. You decide, Wussy Wuss. I'm on the phone.

WUSS ONE: Well, get off the fucking phone Wussy Wuss. It takes an hour to get to the casino, so we gotta get going.

As unbelievable as it may seem, they could continue like that for up to an hour. The mindless banter I could handle, but the blaring music I could not. Many was the time during those first few weeks that I had to ask them politely to turn it down, which they would do, and then 10 minutes later turn it back up. I knew I had a breaking point, and it was about to be reached.

After my fencing class early one morning, I caught the bus back to Lourdes, showered, and fell in for a much needed nap. I figured I had, at least, two hours of deep slumber to indulge in.

Well, about halfway into my nap, and a nice little dream involving me, Cindy Crawford, a clown, and a stellar orgasm. Okay, there was no orgasm (and truthfully, no clown), because before I could attain that wondrous state, the most God-awful music ever to assail the ears came blaring from across the hallway from the room of Wuss 1 and Wuss 2.

I'm a happy person. A laid back person. A person you would like to meet and probably trust with your children should you go away for awhile and need a babysitter. There are, however, two things you should know. Number 1: do not wake me up unless you have a damned good reason. You will regret this. Number 2: if I'm having a Cindy Crawford nocturnal emission, there is no such thing as a damned good reason. If you see me sleeping and I have a smile that spreads from ear to ear, and my blankets appear to be hovering mysteriously around the groin area, you should let me sleep.

Thus, when I was awakened by a blaring stereo, the good-natured Ryan Rhodes you would be pleased to meet was nowhere to be found. Instead, I was filled with blind rage. There could have been two little old ladies listening to Big Band music and I still would have ripped into them.

As it was, I stormed across the hall into the room of Wuss 1 and Wuss 2 (their door was always, ALWAYS, fucking open), and I let loose a string of expletives that had the resident assistant running down the hall to find out what was wrong. Wuss 1 got right into my face and started screaming back at me.

"It's fucking 10:30 in the morning, you fucking wussy!" he shouted. "We can play any fucking music we want! Go back to your fucking room and shut up!"

"You'll turn that music down right now, or I swear I'll toss that stereo and all your speakers off this third floor and won't think twice about it!" I yelled, throwing in a good chest push on Wuss 1 to augment my point.

"Ooooh, big fucking words, asshole!" he said, pushing back. "You don't see anyone else upset about the music do you? Go fuck yourself!"

With that, I sprinted down the hallway, knocking on 12 dorm room doors. Eventually, 16 people emerged from nine rooms, and I asked them to join me outside of Wuss 1 and Wuss 2's room.

"Who here is really annoyed by the music coming from the dorm room of these two monumental assholes?!" I asked the bewildered throng.

As proof that I'm probably the luckiest son of a bitch ever, everyone raised their hand, although I think they were just stunned that I was mad enough to rally half the dorm wing wearing nothing but a pair of boxer shorts with a smiley face on them. Like I said, don't wake me up during a wet dream. Ever.

Confronted with a unanimous vote, and a resident assistant now aligning himself with my superior numbers, Wuss 1 and Wuss 2 capitulated to my demands. My demands were as follows:

"Now, turn that fucking thing down, for now and forever, and if I ever have to come out of my room again because your music is too loud, I'll wake the entire fucking dorm to make my point."

Then, drastically changing my tone of voice and volume, I turned to the crowd I had so rudely summoned.

"Thank you all, for coming out to support me. I'm going back to sleep."

Yet I stood there, locking eyes with Wuss 1 as the rest of the crowd disbanded.

"You just made a major fucking mistake today, wussy," warned Wuss 1 as if I cared.

"Yes, and I'm sure you're a real threat to me," I retorted. "Go crawl back with your little buddy there and engage in whatever ass sex you two dabble in. And keep the music down."

Obviously, our animosity toward each other only grew throughout the quarter, even though they never again blared their radio. It wasn't long, however, before they started taping pictures of naked men on my door with balloon dialogue such as "Ryan fucks me in the ass with his tiny prick," and "Call Ryan for great man sex, 555-5555" (only it was my number, the fuckers).

I responded late one evening with plastic jug of Log Cabin syrup and a three foot length of rubber lab hose (that I bought at Fleet Farm of all places), which I attached to the spigot of the syrup and ran under their dorm room door. I then squeezed and squeezed and squeezed until the bottle was crinkly and almost empty. The next morning, as they set foot on the syrupy carpet in front of their door, I bet you could have heard them swearing in Idaho. They tried steam cleaning their carpet, but it didn't do much good. They eventually opted to cut away a huge syrup soaked square and put down a rug. Just for clarification, the dorm I stayed in had concrete floors. If you wanted carpet, you had to measure and buy your own.

Not known for their originality, the Wuss boys reciprocated the stunt, apparently unaware that my own carpet stopped about three feet from the door, so I only had to mop up a puddle of syrup. They tried sliding tacks under my door, but I kind of saw the shiny objects on my concrete the next morning, so that didn't work out as they had planned.

And then, the big discovery. No, not big: HUGE. My room was adjacent to our dorm wing's bathroom, so the drone of the showers next door seemed to go on in perpetuity. One day, a friend was visiting and she asked what the two square metal panels were against my wall. It was sad because, even though they were quite large, I had never really given them much thought. Lo and behold, behind the tiles were the main valves controlling cold and hot water access to the showers. It didn't take me long to start playing with my newfound toy. It was simply a matter of time before either Wuss 1 or Wuss 2 would take a shower and announce their half-nakedness to the wing. I honestly can't remember which one was first, but I do remember giggling in anticipation, waiting for the water to turn on in one of the showers so I could exact anonimous revenge.

I started by turning off the cold water, because I thought scalding them would be too cruel. Eventually, however, I learned how to balance the hot and cold just right so they just couldn't have an enjoyable shower to save their lives. They would yell and scream and demand to know why the showers never worked for them, but they seemed to work fine for everyone else. Finally, after about a month of water fun, there was a knock at my door. It was dorm maintenance coming by to check why the Wussies were having shower trouble. It didn't take him long to see my fingerprints in the otherwise undisturbed dust of the pipes and valves. He let out a low, elongated grunt, which I suspect was a stifled laugh, and then he turned to me, smiling slightly.

"Um, don't do that any more," he said, and he walked out.

The hi-jinx subsided during the first quarter final exam period, and we never really resumed our war over the rest of the year. I think their need to focus on studying had something to do with it, because as far as I know they both flunked out and were never seen by me ever again after the first year.

Or, maybe they just didn't want to mess any more with the guy who controlled their showers.

Posted by Ryan at 02:24 PM | Comments (0)

January 15, 2003

A Flurry of Flights I've

A Flurry of Flights

I've was informed last week that I had better start preparing for two upcoming technology conventions in late February and early March. I don't mind the conventions, and it's really kind of neat that I get to travel on the company's coin, but business travel is totally different than travel for pleasure.

Come February 23, I'll be flying to Dallas for a SHARE convention, although I have no idea what a SHARE convention entails. Ideally, it would entail half naked women, perhaps the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, whipped cream, and scented oils. Chances aren't good that will be the case. Hopefully I'll find time to prowl the streets of Dallas, but if the last convention I attended in Nashville is any indication, I won't find much spare time for anything.

Then, in early March, I fly to Indianapolis for a COMMON convention. Don't ask me why both conventions have to be in all caps, they just are. What is there to do in Indianapolis? I guess we're going to take a tour of the speedway, but to someone like me who views NASCAR (look, more caps) as proof our civilization is in decline, such a tour is akin to watching clothes tumble in a dryer.

Maybe it's the weather, or maybe it's the fact I haven't gotten a raise in over a year, but I'm starting to get restless at this job. I want to continue writing for a magazine or a newspaper, but this technology stuff is starting to get incredibly dry. I want to write professionally but about stuff that interests me and makes me laugh. Writing for Maxim would be right up my alley. I could write about penis enlargement ads and actually get paid for it.

Posted by Ryan at 02:54 PM | Comments (0)

Avert Your Eyes: Ryan's About

Avert Your Eyes: Ryan's About to Rant

Okay, Daintily Dirty went and got me reading a European version of Time magazine, which apparently dedicates 75 percent of its covers to pictures of Saddam Hussein and burning American flags. Save Europe from Nazis and Fascists, rebuild and finance the recovery of their battered countries, and 50 years later we've become the next big Satan. Some gratitude.

It's fascinating just how much the rest of the world distrusts U.S. policy, which is fine. They have every right under the sky to criticize us to their heart's content. I'll gladly take their crap and pretend it's ice cream. However, this guy just was screaming to be put in his place.

According to Brian Eno, "a musician who believes that regime change begins at home," America has become "trapped in a fortress of arrogance and ignorance." And here's why:

Europeans have always looked at America with a mixture of fascination and puzzlement, and now, increasingly, disbelief. How is it that a country that prides itself on its economic success could have so many very poor people? How is it that a country so insistent on the rule of law should seek to exempt itself from international agreements? And how is it that the world's beacon of democracy can have elections dominated by wealthy special interest groups? For me, the question has become: "How can a country that has produced so much cultural and economic wealth act so dumb?"

Well, for starters, just over a year ago, we had four airplanes hi-jacked, three of which were flown into buildings, costing us over 3,000 lives. Kinda left us a little irked and forced us to refocus our lenses on the world and re-assess our role in it. We thought there would be a little more sympathy from the world but, you know, finding very little, we've decided to take matters into our own hands.

I can't really argue that we have poor people in America. He's got us there. Then again, poverty has a toehold throughout Europe, or at least it did the last time I checked. I'll admit I'm a little rusty when it comes to social studies, so maybe all the countries of Europe have managed to stamp out that pesky little poverty bug. If so, I sincerely apologize Mr. Eno. Truly yours is the economic model we should embrace.

As for those international agreements we keep pulling out of, I have to admit that, musician that he is, Mr. Eno struck a chord there too. Yes, we're pulling out of international agreements, but don't worry, Mr. Eno, that does not in any way mean that we have a deep-seeded desire to occupy Germany, or France, or Spain, or Great Britain. No, it simply means we want to be on a level playing field with other countries who don't want to play fair, countries like, oh, I don't know. . . Iraq and North Korea. Hell, they use international agreements as toilet paper. If you're going up against a cheater, sometimes it helps if you cheat as well. Once the cheaters are out of the game, we'll be more than happy to engage in a group hug and go into a big hall where we'll gladly sign agreement after agreement.

I could fill this page with the names of Americans who have influenced, entertained and educated me. They represent what I admire about America: a vigorous originality of thought, and a confidence that things can be changed for the better. That was the America I lived in and enjoyed from 1978 until 1983. That America was an act of faith — the faith that "otherness" was not threatening but nourishing, the faith that there could be a country big enough in spirit to welcome and nurture all the diversity the world could throw at it.

There must be a "but" somewhere around here. Oh, wait, here it is:

But since Sept. 11, that vision has been eclipsed by a suspicious, introverted America, a country-sized version of that peculiarly American form of ghetto: the gated community. A gated community is defensive. Designed to keep the "others" out, it dissolves the rich web of society into a random clustering of disconnected individuals. It turns paranoia and isolation into a lifestyle.

Tell you what, let a few terrorists infiltrate Europe, destroy Big Ben, the Brandenburg Gate, the Eiffel Tower, and spread a little anthrax around for good measure and then talk to me about being paranoid. In actuality, America has shown remarkable resilience in bouncing back from the shock of a nationwide trauma. Still, we're not too keen about having it all happen again. I really like how he makes it sound as if our borders have suddenly become closed to everyone, as if we now don't allow immigrants or tourists into our country. The only "others" we want to keep out are the suspicious folks with three aliases who want to learn how to fly commercial airliners for no apparent reason. Otherwise, we still maintain a vibrant and diverse cultural base. You should really come and visit us sometime.

Too often, the U.S. presents the "American way" as the only way, insisting on its kind of free-market Darwinism as the only acceptable "model of human progress." But isn't civilization what happens when people stop behaving as if they're trapped in a ruthless Darwinian struggle and start thinking about communities and shared futures? America as a gated community won't work, because not even the world's sole superpower can build walls high enough to shield itself from the intertwined realities of the 21st century. There's a better form of security: reconnect with the rest of the world, don't shut it out; stop making enemies and start making friends. Perhaps it's asking a lot to expect America to act differently from all the other empires in history, but wasn't that the original idea?

Again with the big squishy peace hug idea. A nice idea that, until you start dealing with people like Saddam who believe being nice means killing only half as many people as he did last time. "Perhaps it's asking a lot to expect America to act differently from all the other empires in history, but wasn't that the original idea?" No, it's not asking a lot, and in fact that's exactly what we're doing, and we're being criticized for it. We're taking our position as the world's major superpower, and we're trying bring about change. Europeans have this fuzzy idea of all countries just chilling out and letting the bad apple regimes just run their course.

It's easy to sit on high, strumming your guitar, living the good life, and simply turn a deaf ear to the reality that other countries are truly just struggling to survive. But those countries do exist, and while your back is turned, they're actively promoting a hatred of the rest of the world, the West, that seems to have so much. We made that mistake in Afghanistan. Maybe you're content to make the same mistake with Iraq, but we're not.

Maybe regime change does actually start at home, but it sure speeds the process along if the dictator happens to be a charred corpse following an air raid. It's a sick and harsh reality, but it's reality all the same.

Posted by Ryan at 01:02 PM | Comments (1)

January 14, 2003

And a New computer is

And a New computer is On the Way

Well, it took me awhile, but I finally took the initiative and got ahold of "the guy" who is going to purchase the components and build a new computer for me. When it comes to the world of technology, I keep a few friends on the fringe who I can turn to when I need to upgrade my investment in the world of computers and high-tech machines.

I keep these guys on hand because (A) they know what they're doing, and (B) they tend to have a loose moral fiber when it comes to acquiring hardware and software--I don't know where it comes from, and I don't ask. Sure, my eventual machine may consist of 75 percent questionably-purchased components and pirated software. But, if it saves me a few hundred bucks or more, who am I to judge? In the end, I'll have a computer that is better than most high-end systems found in major corporations. I don't necessarily need to be able to run an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution, but it's nice to know I could if I wanted to. I just want to play Aliens Versus Predator 2. That's all.

Making large purchases does not come easy to me. I go through what amounts to a religious search for meaning any time I have to part with more than $500. I feel I have to sacrifice a chicken and write the check in chicken blood using a claw as a pen. When I write out a quick $10 check, I do so almost without thinking. But, as I wrote a check to "the guy" for $1,200, I did so very carefully, using ink strokes so fluid the check could qualify as a work of art. I handed the check to "the guy," and he smiled at me with a sly look in his eyes.

"Don't worry, my man," he said. "we'll take care of you."

We? He has a team? And they're going to take care of me? I don't know if I liked the sound of that. I felt like I was in some sort of high technology version of "The Godfather," only instead of Marlon Brando stroking a cat, he'd be nervously fingering a Palm Pilot.

"I'm glad you came to me, Mr. Rhodes. It shows you have respect, and we value respect. Respect is our username and password."

It's disturbing to what lengths I'll go to play really cool video games online.

Posted by Ryan at 12:09 PM | Comments (0)

"The Naked Truth About Nudism,"

"The Naked Truth About Nudism," c. Ryan Rhodes, Jan. 7, 2003

Warning: This column contains nudity. Due to the graphic nudity portrayed in this column, readers are advised to peruse this section by candlelight while cramped in a dark and quiet closet.

I'll admit it, from time to time, I walk around nude. When I shower, I'm nude. When I bathe, I'm nude. When I surf the Internet, I'm nu. . . wait, forget that last one.

Despite my occasional nudity, I make it a point not to expose others to my naked body whenever possible. Although it's generally agreed that I'm a smoking hot specimen of male hunkiness, I'm relatively certain people don't want to see me prancing around in the buff. NUDIST!

There are people, however, who genuinely enjoy being naked and sharing their naked bodies with the world. These people even have a neat sounding title: nudists.

Now, as I just pointed out, I'm not a nudist, but I've always held nudists in high esteem, and by high esteem I mean I like to point and giggle at them.

My, um, exposure to the world of nudism has been limited to a certain beach on the Hawaiian island of Maui. There, on a small stretch of white sand known as Little Makena Beach, nudists congregate and shed their clothes in direct violation of the island's nudity ban.

I found out about Little Makena Beach during my first visit to Maui when I was 20 years old. And, because my 20-year-old mind had been conditioned by television to believe that all naked beach-goers were somehow right out of Baywatch, I wanted nothing more than to find that little beach and feast my eyes. My brother and I were bouncing around in wide-eyed goofy anticipation of seeing an entire beach of nude people. Such as Christina Aguilera nude.

Finally, after much searching, we located Little Makena Beach and undertook the small hike required to reach the isolated stretch of sand. As my brother and I came over a small rise, we saw Little Makena Beach below us in all its glory. And, just as we expected, there were naked people milling around everywhere.

And, oh my stars, the naked people looked nothing like the people I saw on Baywatch. As I stood there, overlooking the beach of nudists, I experienced the life-altering realization that the vast majority of naked people are really, really gross to behold.

These weren't airbrushed Playboy models, these were just your run-of-the-mill people next door. And they were naked! Imagine your neighbor coming over to borrow a cup of sugar. Only they're naked! That's what Little Makena Beach is like. There are naked young people, and there are naked old people, and there are naked really old people, and they're everywhere!

And it's not just that they're naked. No. These people are extremely proud to be naked, as if by shedding their clothes and exposing themselves, they have achieved some sort of transcendental state. But, you see, they actually haven't achieved a transcendental state. They're just naked. Totally and completely naked. There's no other way to put it, really. They're just naked!

Most of the nudists I encountered walked slowly, strolling really, with a nakeder than thou look on their faces, apparently scornful of those of us who had the audacity to wear swim trunks on their hallowed naked ground. I kept wanting to shout, "You're not better than me! You're just naked!"

But other than their apparent air of superiority over us clothed mortals, and the unmistakable fact they're all naked, nudists are pretty much like everyone else. They swim in the ocean, they bodysurf, they build sandcastles, they play paddle ball, they play volleyball and they play catch.

Which brings me to another important point about nudists. In this columnist's opinion, naked men should not be allowed to play paddle ball, or volleyball, and they should definitely not be allowed to play catch. In fact, any activity that involves sudden movements of the exposed pelvic area should be taboo for all men without clothes.

The other distinctive aspect of Little Makena Beach is that it's one of the best bodyboarding and bodysurfing beaches on the entire island of Maui. Therefore, if you really want to bodyboard on some great waves, you must be willing to brave a sea of nude people.

There's a certain feeling of helplessness inherent in being pushed by a wave towards the exposed behind of an unwary wader. On more than one occasion, I was able to magically steer my bodyboard to avoid a fleshy collision.

In the end, I learned that nudists and non-nudists can exist peacefully together, sharing the same beach and soaking in the same sun.

Still, naked people, like Paz Vega, shouldn't play catch. That's just really gross. Even though Paz Vega is pretty hot. Paz Vega is really hot. I mean, Paz Vega is really hot.

Posted by Ryan at 10:09 AM | Comments (0)

January 13, 2003

North Korea's X-Rated Missile Program

North Korea's X-Rated Missile Program

Well, despite all the speculation as to why the U.S. is salivating for a war against Iraq while the North Korean threat is downplayed, I have my own suspicions why North Korea has to play second fiddle. Quite simply, North Korea has an X-rated missile program.

Yes, North Korea has nuclear capabilities, and yes North Korea is pretty flagrant when it comes to not playing nice. And yet, the Bush Jr. administration is content to try to work through diplomatic channels rather than give the upstart Asian country too much broadcast news legitimacy. And no wonder. Here the North Koreans have the audacity to refer to their missiles with such cheek-reddening names as Taepo Dong and Nodong.

It's kind of hard to quake with fear when you're told North Koreans are tinkering with a Taepo Dong. "Well, what type o' dong are they tinkering with? And can it be bought online to improve my own self-confidence?"

And Nodong? What kind of a missile name is that? Tell me Kim Jong Il himself didn't personally conjure that name just to make the U.S. military squirm during briefings.

"Well, Mr. President, as you can see, we should really be concerned about North Korea's Nodong technology. Franklin, please quit snickering back there! This is serious! Anyway, to continue: this is obviously no ordinary Taepo Dong. If we look at the map, we see that Nodong can reach this far. Okay, gentlemen, if you can't take this briefing more seriously, I'll ask you to step outside so I can give the president a close-up look at Nodong."

Obviously, the Bush administration is wary of putting the president in front of the White House press corp to discuss the North Korean missile program. With all the talk about Taepo Dongs and Nodongs, his approval ratings would plummet.

REPORTER #1: Mr. President, how big of a threat do you think the North Korean missile program poses to the rest of the world.

PRESIDENT W: A rogue nation developing Nodongs is obviously a pretty big concern. We don't want Nodongs coming out of North Korea and threatening the world.

REPORTER #1: Excuse me?

PRESIDENT W: Let's put it another way. If weapon inspectors visited North Korea and found a dangerous Taepo Dong, or even Nodongs, we'd have to ask their government why.

REPORTER #2: Soo. . . a nation with no dongs is bad? Is that what you're saying?

PRESIDENT W: Well, obviously. But, more than that, the North Korean Taepo Dongs are just as bad as Nodongs.

REPORTER #2: I see. Actually, no I don't. When did U.S. policy start viewing the North Korean type o' dong as somehow different from the rest of the world?

PRESIDENT W: Huh? What Taepo Dong does the rest of the world have? Why wasn't I informed about this?

The next day's newspaper headlines would read: NO DONGS THREATEN BUSH

So you see, until the North Koreans have the courtesy to rename their missiles, we're going to focus all our attention on Iraq.

Posted by Ryan at 11:53 AM | Comments (0)

January 10, 2003

A Little Journalism Lesson I

A Little Journalism Lesson

I remember sitting in my journalism classes listening to the professors talk about some of their most memorable reporting experiences. Sure, newbie reporters get the shit-end of the salary stick (I made a whole $7 an hour at my first newspaper reporting job), but there's nothing like being out on a beat to experience news as it happens. It can be electrifying, and it can be boring, and it can be downright funny.

During my second newspaper job as news editor of the Stewartville Star, I kept an ear glued to the scanner each day, listening for emergency rescue dispatches and other such tidbits. I was ticking away at an ancient Macintosh computer, circa 1990, with a monitor so old and so ready to cash in its chips it was actually yellow, like looking through a Mountain Dew bottle. The chain-smoking publisher and his wife were working on ad layout just outside my office, smoking away (apparently working around so much paper and flammable glue didn't register as a concern), and the smoke snaked its way into my nostrils, making me hope beyond hope the scanner would go off so I could get the hell outdoors and into the fresh air.

The journalism genie must have heard me, because my wish was granted. A flurry of activity broadcast over the scanner and in short order the streets of Stewartville came alive with sirens. In a blink, I had my notebook, pen and camera loaded up and I was out the door to pursue the nearest vehicle with flashing lights. I settled in behind a police cruiser and followed it down a dusty gravel road for about three miles, when we finally came upon a roadblock of other cruisers and two emergency response vehicles.

It was an odd scene, but only because there was nothing remarkable to report. A truck with a topper was pulled over to the side of the road, and emergency personnel were working to extricate an obviously dead man from the driver's side. A few yards away, a stricken-looking woman was giving a report to an officer. She was perhaps 45, maybe younger, but her crying had caused her make-up to run, so she looked pretty awful, like Alice Cooper only worse.

Suddenly, a hand dropped on my shoulder and I was whirled around by an Olmsted County deputy who obviously viewed his badge as a reason to puff out his chest and strut like he was something special. Most officers are down to earth good people. He was not.

"Just what the hell do you think you're doing here?" he asked. "This is an accident scene."

"Then where's the accident?" I said. "All I see is a truck pulled over and a dead guy being wheeled into an ambulance. I'm a reporter and I'm just trying to find out what happened."

"This doesn't concern reporters like you," he sniffed. "Now step back over there beyond that squad car before I escort you there myself."

"Well, can I take pictures?" I pressed, mostly trying to buy time so I could listen in on the report being given by the stricken woman I had mentally started referring to as Alice Cooper. "I was thinking a good action shot of the gurney being put in the ambulance would be great."

"Are you trying to be funny?" he asked, taking a very serious pose apparently meant to make as much sunshine reflect off his badge as possible. "Move it. Now!"

I had played with Mr. Muscle long enough, and I didn't want to push him any further, as fun as that could have been, so I walked slowly back to my car. What I had gathered from the Alice's report was that the dead individual was a former Mower County elected official of some sort, but that was about it. I didn't understand all the secrecy, which usually is never an issue for a vehicle "accident." And, besides, why the hell were they referring to it as an accident when obviously the truck hadn't suffered so much as a scratch? I couldn't help but think there was more to this guy's death than I was being told, and that always pisses a reporter off. It's bad enough that we're paid shit, but being stonewalled sucks more than anything else.

I wasn't beat yet. One of the cardinal rules about small town reporting is you simply must make nice early on with the people of local government and the law enforcement officials who spend the most time in town. I knew the local deputy (referred to as Ted here) extremely well and had done a ride along with him my second week on the job to make it known that I was not his enemy. He proved to be one of the best sources of information during the ten months I worked at that paper.

I tracked down Ted at a local Hardees, and he told me to meet him at his office where things weren't quite so public. I did as he asked, fully anticipating a juicy news story. I was envisioning a great tale of suspected murder of a former elected Mower County official. Oh, my scoop would be the envy of the local media outlets. This was my big break. Come on, Ted, feed me the details!

These were the details, all off the record of course:

Alice Cooper, who wasn't the loving wife of the former elected Mower County official, but an occasional on-the-side girlfriend, was performing an apparently stellar blowjob in the cab of the parked truck, when suddenly the former elected Mower County official suffered a heart attack and died. Although Ted and I laughed ourselves senseless, there was no way I was going to report on that.

So much for making the big time.

Posted by Ryan at 05:13 PM | Comments (1)

And I Do This Why?

And I Do This Why?

Today I'm sporting a slightly blackened right eye. Nothing major, just tiny shiner on the upper eye socket, the result of yet another enthusiastic night of hapkido.

There's really only one guy I work out with who is guaranteed to hurt me, and I'm guaranteed to hurt him back. He's my height and slightly heavier than me, and we both like to dish out the punishment against each other. We're not enemies or anything like that, we just know that the other guy can take the abuse so we try to work out as realistically as possible. Full speed, and with dangerous amounts of power. It's amazing we don't emerge far more wounded than we do.

When I work out with the girls in the class, dainty little high school seniors who weigh maybe 100 pounds, if that, I always have to be pretty careful. Granted, they're scrappy little vixens, and they can take loads upon loads of punishment, but only to a certain extent. They're technically superb, and chances are, if confronted by a novice on the street, they'd leave an attacker bruised and battered on the asphalt within a few seconds. They're quick, and they're mean, and they call me Puddles because I sweat so much. But, in class, they're small and they seem almost fragile at times. So, I don't get the best of workouts with them. The same goes for newbies and some of the older folks who wince before you even execute a move.

And then there's John. Any time I'm paired up with him, I'm both excited and terrified. I KNOW I'm going to get hurt, but at the same time I know the workout is going to be great. He's a flawless sparring partner, combining boxing, taekwondo and hapkido techniques into an arsenal that just tears me apart. When we grapple, however, he's in my world, and I exact as much revenge as I can.

Whereas sparring requires kicking and punching your opponent, grappling requires bringing your opponent to the ground, working them into a submission hold, and choking them unconscious. Usually they tap out before they go unconscious. It's a blast, but you're far more likely to be hurt grappling because the opponent will go to great lengths to avoid getting choked, including digging at pressure points and punching at any exposed body part, such as the eye. Which is how I earned my current shiner.

People ask why I do hapkido when I get hurt so often, and I usually fumble with the answer. It's hard to explain the appeal, but it really comes down to a love of one-on-one self-defense. Sparring with people, exploiting weaknesses in their defenses, grappling an opponent into a submission hold from which they can't escape, it's all so primitive but there's so much technique and skill involved. And you don't really realize you're learning anything until a friend jokingly throws a punch at you and you fold them over without even really thinking about it.

Beating up friends is so worth a black eye.

Posted by Ryan at 12:15 PM | Comments (0)

January 09, 2003

How Big is Just Right?

How Big is Just Right?

Am I the only person somewhat perpelexed by the explosion of penis enlargement advertisements and spam mail? There are even television commercials and informercials on the topic for crying out loud. Would somebody please tell me what the heck is going on?! When did the male population start looking downward and think, "That needs to be bigger?"

I won't go into the size of my own penis, because frankly there's not enough space on the entire world wide web to accommodate a detailed description of my wang. Suffice it to say, I'm pleased with my penis, and I have yet to get a complaint. And even if someone were to complain, I probably wouldn't believe them.

But apparently there's a major demand to embiggen the man muscle, and I can't for the life of me understand why. As it is, the male penis is kind of an uncomfortable piece of equipment to lug around. It dangles there, between the legs, a fleshy pendulum that toggles between the thighs. If God weren't so rusty with his genetic skills, he would have put the penis in a less obtrusive spot, like on the back of the head as a type of penis ponytail. Headbanging would be a type of mating display.

The penis's complementary attachments, the scrotum and testicles, are also not situated in the most convenient of spots. Together, all that male equipment shifts more than tectonic plates, and probably with as much friction. Why in the world would you want to make any of it even bigger? After all, I don't look at my airline luggage and think, "Man, I really wish I had more to carry."

But yet here we are with a consumer marketplace being flooded with creams, salves, pills, liquids, pumps and, if you can believe it, an entire magazine dedicated to the quest for a larger dong. Once upon a time, such penis enlargement options could only be found in the back of particularly dirty men's magazines like Hustler, and were only viewed by acne-ridden adolescents buried beneath their blankets late at night reading by flashlight. Now, you can just flip through the channels and see actual commercials touting a bigger boy.

Just out of curiosity, how much further down the acting ladder can you possibly slide if you have to accept a commercial gig as "penis enlargement guy #1?" I can't imagine that's the type of resume padding that will land you in a soap opera any time soon. Everywhere you go, there's the danger that people will recognize you as the guy who uses penis enlargement aids.

But I'm getting off topic here. My main question still remains, "why would you really want to make your penis bigger?" Granted, there are some men out there that don't feel they measure up, men who fall short of the overall world average of six inches while erect. If they feel inadequate somehow, then sure, they have a legitimate reason to try and stretch their jimmies.

But, men seeking to extend beyond six or seven inches are just being unreasonable, and I would argue they're hopelessly vain and greedy. Some of the enlargement products show men holding on to specimens that look like soft forearms. A ten inch weiner? No thanks. What good could you possibly do with a ten inch penis? Except for repeatedly hitting the end of the road for practically every female not over six feet tall.

Besides, when you're not engaged in intercourse, you still have that ten inch wand to deal with. Myself, I probably am forced to adjust my package 20 times a day. I like my penis to rest on my right thigh. It's home there. Comfortable. But if I had a ten inch coiled behemoth to worry about, I think I'd go insane. It would get squeezed between your legs and, you know, there's a good chance you'd occasionally sit on it. Imagine sitting in on a meeting, when suddenly your penis slides down underneath your right buttock. Now you're just stuck there, sitting on your dink, trying to concentrate through a veil of tears, waiting for a break so you can adjust yourself. "A ten inch penis. What was I thinking?!"

If you're uncomfortable with your penis size, don't take drastic measures to get bigger, just date really small women. It's all relative.

Posted by Ryan at 02:04 PM | Comments (0)

Hardware of the Rich and

Hardware of the Rich and Famous

My girlfriend works at a St. Paul Restoration Hardware outlet. Now, normally, the term "hardware" conjures images of handheld drills and circular saws and bins upon bins of nails, screws, nuts and bolts. Not so at Restoration Hardware. When I first followed my girlfriend into her place of work, I was taken aback by the staggering amounts of non-hardware crap for sale. Could I interest you in a Lomo Russian Camera?

I'm not bashing my girlfriend's line of work. Not at all. I'm mostly perturbed at the class distinction inherent in places like Restoration Hardware. It's the hardware store for people who are too good for Home Depot or Menards. Granted, Restoration does keep paint in stock and there are other items that could, theoretically, be considered hardware items. Perhaps a Digital Recording Tape Measure? Let's be honest, if you're enough of a yuppy to need a digital recording of your voice to note measurements, instead of a trusty pencil and paper, you probably have no business trying your hand at home improvement. Thankfully, Restoration also offers a German Tape Measure, for no apparent reason except to offer a German Tape Measure. Use it to see how low or heil your pictures should be hung. To be on the safe side, if you find yourself using either of these tape measures, you should also have Restoration's Pocket Medic First-Aid Kit on hand.

Ordinary Joes like me must rely on Ace Hardware for all our tool needs. But, if you're in a higher tax bracket, you can peruse Restoration Hardware for anything from furniture to Dog Bookends or Brooklyn Bridge Bookends. Sheesh, say that fast 10 times.

I'm somewhat kidding, of course. I realize that Restoration Hardware doesn't promote itself as a genuine hardware store. It openly embraces those with kitschy tastes. After all, only the Cleavers could truly find a use for The Family Band. If I remember my childhood correctly, and my particularly hyperactive self, I'm fairly certain The Family Band would find itself hopelessly scattered througout the house, and The Family Dog would have chewed the maracas into splinters within hours.

I really can't poke too much fun here, primarily because one of the nicest Christmas gifts I received this year came from Restoration Hardware. Okay, truth be told, virtually every gift from the girlfriend came from Restoration Hardware, due primarily to her 40 percent employee discount. Still, The Ultimate Game Box is probably the best chess board I've ever owned, even though you could probably find a much cheaper version at any number of less pretentious game shops.

Melissa has a sense of humor about Restoration Hardware, which is a good thing because I always make fun of it. But even she doesn't really fit in there. As a visual display designer, or whatever the hell her title is, she doesn't have to deal with customers, which she admittedly detests doing. That task is left to her co-workers, an impossibly coifed lot of women who probably spend eight hours in front of the mirror preparing for their work day. This is in major contrast to Melissa, who doesn't wear make-up and shows up 20 minutes late every day because she, like me, likes to sleep until the very last possible minute.

Still, I encourage everyone to visit the Restoration Hardware Web site and peruse their offerings, if for no other reason but to get a really good laugh.

Posted by Ryan at 11:04 AM | Comments (0)

January 08, 2003

The Eyes of the Pharaohs

The Eyes of the Pharaohs and Bits of Randomness

Last Saturday, I went to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts to peruse their recently opened Egyptian exhibit, on loan from the British Museum until March 13. I'm one of those pathetic souls who can't absorb enough about ancient Egypt. If I'm flipping through the channels and I catch a glimpse of the pyramids, I'm stuck there, whether I've seen the program 10 times before or not. I've become adept at listening to Dr. Zahi Hawass and understanding him through his maddeningly thick accent.

Unfortunately, my exposure to the world of ancient Egypt has been entirely through the medium conjured by Philo T. Farnsworth: television. The chance to actually see 144 Egyptian artifacts up close was just too enticing to ignore. It truly is an woderful exhibit. For an hour-and-a-half, I absorbed 5,000 years worth of history, standing before works of art so brilliantly crafted, it was hard to believe they weren't created minutes ago rather than millennia.

Although you're not supposed to touch the artifacts, I really couldn't help myself. How can you stand an inch away from a carved relief and not touch it? How can you stay your hand from so much history? It was worth it. It's astounding how smooth and perfect the cold stone felt. The ancient Egyptians understood art and architecture to an extent that makes the rest of the ancient world seem like a troupe of doddering imbeciles. I mean, seriously, if you compare Stonehenge and the pyramids, which culture would you want to be associated with?

Moving on over to weather, with our weatherman, Ryan Rhodes, we see that much of Minnesota is enjoying temperatures in excess of 50 degrees today. It is freakishly unusual to see such temperatures in January. January is usually the month dedicated to the god of sweaters and the demi-god of shovels and ice-picks. But here it is 50 degrees! Unbelievable. It definitely makes the winter season bearable when there's no snow on the ground and jackets, if even for a short while, are optional. I think I'll leave work early today just so I can go for a run in the daylight and totally enjoy the weather.

And finally, I would be most remiss if I didn't give at least passing mention to the world of terrorism. It seems those wacky terrorists are dabbling in lethal toxins, although how they intend to use the toxic toys remains unclear. Granted, it's no big surprise that they're playing with toxins. After all, in their fundamentalist minds, any way you can kill an infidel is a good way. However, it really sheds some light on how totally fucking demented these people are that they want to expose people to a toxin so vile it actually causes people to shit themselves to death. Imagine, just imagine, that somewhere in the world, someone you have never met, and frankly could care less about, is cooking up a plan to expose you to a chemical that causes fever, stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting and eventually death. Inhaling ricin often results in death from respiratory failure in 36 to 72 hours. Injected ricin causes death from multiple organ failure.

I'm not panicking here, I'm just pissed. Islamic fundamentalist terrorists honestly believe the West is out to destroy Islam, but they're the folks scheming to obliterate people by the thousands. If we truly wanted to eradicate Islam, we're more than capable of launching a nuclear salvo and reducing every Islamic country in the world to smoldering piles of turbans. But, we're not out to eradicate Islam. Islam is not our enemy. As far as we're concerned, you can worship however the fuck you want. Go ahead and become a Raelian for all we care. We're not against any religion. We're against those who use their own religious interpretation as justification for the indiscriminate killing of innocents. That's not a religion, it's a declaration of war.

Posted by Ryan at 01:00 PM | Comments (0)

January 07, 2003

"Deadly Conversations," c. Ryan Rhodes,

"Deadly Conversations," c. Ryan Rhodes, Jan. 2, 2002

Consider, if you will, the following scenario.

A young man, perhaps 27-years old, who some would argue is a smoking hot specimen of male hunkiness, invites his girlfriend to Christmas dinner with his parents.

It's a relaxing atmosphere consisting of just four people, although there is the slight anxiety on the part of the young man ("do they like her"), and on the part of the girlfriend ("do they like me"), and on the part of the mother ("do they like my cooking"), and on the part of the father ("I wonder if I could get away with flatulence right now").

As the turkey makes its rounds and the wine is sipped, the parents start light conversation. This is expected, because light conversation is a good complement to turkey and wine. Eventually, however, the conversation spirals deeper and deeper, until finally the mother speaks.

"You remember Mildred Asner? Well, she had some pain in her neck so she went to the doctor. Turns out she had neck cancer. Entire neck, ridden with cancer. First known case ever. Doctors gave her five months. Three weeks later, she was dead."

"Well, don't forget Guy Richardson," says the father. "He was out one morning, getting the newspaper, when he stubbed his toe on the way back inside. He didn't want to take any chances with a stubbed toe, you know, so he went to the doctor. Doctor told him he had an advanced case of toe cancer. Gave him 12 hours to live. Poor Guy just rolled over dead right there in the doctor's office."

The conversation proceeds like this for the remainder of the dinner. As the turkey disappears, the tales of death and dying continue to roll forth in a torrent of Grim Reaper delight. The smoking hot young man notices his girlfriend turning pale, but smiling bravely. By this time, her thoughts of joyful Christmas delight are no doubt lost amidst a swirl of premonitions of her own ghastly demise, probably due to an obscure illness like belly button cancer.

Now, this was entirely a hypothetical scenario. It certainly had nothing to do with me, or my girlfriend, or my family. This was just a Joe Everybody tale, a common Christmas experience, a . . . okay, okay, it was about me, and about my girlfriend, and about my family.

I'm not sure when the evolution took place exactly, but at some point in their life my parents decided that the tales of death and woe of their friends and acquaintances somehow constitutes good, lively conversation.

Fun stories about parties and gatherings and life's little foibles are gradually being replaced by dark recollections of how people succumbed to illness or how they had to be amputated at the torso to stop the spread of leg hair cancer.

It's not so much the stories, as bleak as they are, that bother me. What bothers me is that I've heard all these stories before, many years before, coming from the mouths of my grandparents and the older relatives gathered around the dinner table.

I remember thinking, even then, that the discussions disturbed me for some reason. Perhaps it was the thirsty interest they seemed to share when talking about how Great Uncle Patterson died that summer after a freak shuffleboard accident, or how a third cousin, Hester, was bit by a rabid tree squirrel and died six weeks later after biting three neighbor girls who all, likewise, died (the Great Rabid Girl Plague of 1978). I'm exaggerating, of course (no, really, I am), but you get the idea.

Granted, the names have now changed, and the methods of demise reflect modern medicine's ability to stave off the deadlier diseases of yore, but the preoccupation with death and illness now seems to be overtaking my parents, and it's a nerve-wracking transformation to witness, particularly over Christmas dinner, with my girlfriend sitting across from me wondering if I was spawned by the Addams Family or the Munsters.

Great, now I have this vision of my father, dressed as Gomez, kissing his way up my mother's arm, draped in flowing black, saying, "Oh, my wife, *smooch* *smooch* *smooch* In this light, you remind me of Mildred Asner shortly before the neck cancer took her away."

Ba da da dum. Click, click. Ba da da dum. Snap, snap. Ba da da dum, ba da da dum, ba da da dum.

Posted by Ryan at 04:40 PM | Comments (0)

January 06, 2003

Oooh, Let's Fear the Wrath

Oooh, Let's Fear the Wrath of Ventura

I'll admit it, I voted for Jesse Ventura. And I'm sorry. How was I to know?

Well, Jesse is gone, taking his feather boas with him, no doubt gearing up for a civilian life that will include all manner of attempts to inflate his already gargantuan ego. I'm not particularly sorry to see him go. Although he definitely put Minnesota on the map in a DD cup bra sort of way, his antics by and large were so monumentally self-serving and ultimately non-sensical, he left most Minnesotans shaking their heads saying, "Yah, he's a pretty odd governor, you betcha."

More than anything else, I took his constant media bashing personally, primarily because I'm a journalist by trade. When he called reporters "jackals," I couldn't help but feel the red glow of anger flush on my cheeks. Granted, he was mostly referring to those assigned to the state government beat, but I was guilty by association, a jackal on the fringe.

I don't disagree that there are a lot of unscrupulous journalists out there and, particularly in some of the local news outlets, lazy and sloppy journalism is rampant, but overall the media has a Democratic obligation and a right to investigate and report on what it can. Granted, reporting on the eating habits of Julia Roberts may seem pretty insignificant and useless, but reporters wouldn't be out there reporting on it if there weren't readers out there thirsting for the info. The media may be a big beast, but the whims and wishes of the public dictate where the beast goes. Well, for the most part.

The point is, the media made Governor Ventura. If it weren't for the media covering the hulking mound of flesh and his bid for the governorship, he never would have been elected. Instead, we would have had everybody's favorite lazy grandpa (Skip Humphrey) or Mayor Quimby (Norm Coleman) at the helm for the past four years. You would expect a little gratitude on the part of "The Mind," but it was not to be.

Jesse just doesn't get it. He wants the fame without the notoriety. He wants adoration and praise and an adoring public chanting his name as he executes a flawless scissor kick from the top ropes of the wrestling ring. He treated the Minnesota governorship as his own personal WWF Raw Smackdown buffoon stage. We elected him to lead and he promptly did an interview for Playboy, where he made comments that were pretty much intended to piss off as many people as possible. He followed that up with some late show appearances where he insulted the Irish. He followed that up with a return to the world of professional wrestling as an announcer. He followed that up with a stint as an announcer for the horrid XFL. And we're somehow jackals for following the freak show around and reporting his exploits? Give me a break. I mean really.

Sadly, we're still stuck with Ventura in our own little way, as he has promised to be a watchdog over the media now that he's out of office. Oh, goody.

He pointed out that his 72nd and final judicial appointee, Terrence Walters of Rochester, had been an unsuccessful finalist for the bench several times before, and he likened him to a Navy sailor who vomited while doggedly trying to qualify for frogman duty.

Gee, that sounds like just the kind of man I want sitting on a judicial bench.

He also said he expects to have no future role in public affairs except as a voter. "I'd rather critique the media," he added, "because no one does that, and I think someone should. As of Monday, you will fear me."

I know I'm shaking in my Sketchers. Excuse me, but "no one" critiques the media? I think a quick perusal of the Letters to the Editor section of any newspaper worth its ink will refute that statement outright. The public is the most outspoken collective critic of the media. The last thing the public needs is a blowhole like Ventura leading the charge.

Regarding his send-off tribute last weekend, The invitation reads: "Come dressed as you like . . . from formal to outrageous. Feast on fabulous traditional Heartland Fare; Enjoy your favorite cocktails; Sample fine cigars at the cigar bar; Hear remarks from guest speakers. Rub elbows with local and national celebrities. Join us in a champagne toast and dance the night away." A disclaimer warns: "no cameras -- no autographs -- no media jackals!"

Let's see, "local and national celebrities." Yes, it's quite obvious Jesse was treated pretty shabbily by the media if he can entice local and national celebrities to sup at his going away bash. Must be rough, Guv. Sorry for being so hard on you.

"I'm looking forward to going back into private life," he said. "God bless everyone, and good luck in the future."

Except for us jackals, right Jesse?

Posted by Ryan at 04:42 PM | Comments (0)

January 05, 2003

Relationship Retrospective Obviously, no two

Relationship Retrospective

Obviously, no two relationships are the same. Some are fast, shooting stars of passion and emotion and unrealistic dreams that seem realistic as hell, that eventually flare out as the dual lenses of common sense and just plain unfair life come into focus and you realize just how much is missing. Others are slow, happening almost by accident over time, a shared laugh here, an unexpected interim alone there, until one evening you end up kissing and making your way to the bedroom, and you're left thinking afterward, "how the hell did that happen?" Some are one night stands, and some are nightmares of unrequited emotions that leave you tossing and turning into the wee morning hours.

So far, I think I've done them all at least once.

As I drove back to Rochester from St. Paul this afternoon after a weekend with Melissa, I found my mind wandering back to when we first met and how unlikely our being together actually is. By all accounts, we shouldn't probably be together, due to a confluence of circumstances, not the least of which is the fact that, for a time, I was dating two other women in addition to Mel.

To put it mildly, I had a busy summer. A good summer, obviously, but a busy summer.

Starting in July, I began dating a nurse at the Mayo Cinic, a disturbingly cute nurse with an alluring intellectual capacity that made for some wonderful sarcastic exchanges between us. She was funny, smart and cute. In short, she was a tough act to surpass, and I really didn't expect that to happen.

Also in July, however, as I was enjoying a late afternoon jog around the local lake, I came up behind another jogger, a tall female specimen with an impossibly tight behind. I started passing her without thinking anything of it, but I gradually became aware that she was matching my strides, keeping up alongside me, escalating things into an outright foot race. The long and the short of it, without going into who won, was that we exchanged phone numbers and started talking to each other on and off. Eventually, we went on two dates, during which time I realized that, although she had a stellar body, she was dumb as a stump, and that's actually being pretty damned mean to stumps. This girl didn't know what the word "cinema" was, and she once referred to a menu as a "men-ooh." Whether it was intentional or not, I don't know, but it gave me a headache.

Into this mix entered Melissa, a friend of a friend, Lisa, who thought we may have a chance together. Truth be told, if it hadn't been for Lisa feeding the two of lies about each other, we probably never would have gotten together. Lisa told Mel that I really liked her, when in reality I mostly tolerated her. On the other side of the coin, Lisa told me that Mel thought I was really cute and nice, when in actuality Mel says that she thought I was probably a player, which I guess I was a little bit in college, but not any more. I did think Mel was cute, and her dark red, naturally curly hair gave her a playful and innocent quality that made me feel comfortable around her.

Oh, yes, also briefly interjected into the month of July was a phone call from an ex-girlfriend of about three years ago. Despite an incessent pounding in my chest telling me to rekindle things, I allowed my mental reasoning to point out all the bad crap that got between us in the first place. I decided not to pursue anything with her further, although I spent about three sleepless nights making that decision.

So, there I was, in July, dating three different women and making excuses why I couldn't see one while I saw a different one. There was a certain amount of fun involved, due primarily to the appeal of danger of being discovered. Gradually, however, I realized that I couldn't play the game any more, and not just because I felt bad that feelings were involved. Quite simply, I was becoming pooped and irritable. It's exhausting to lie in perpetuity.

The first to go was the runner. This was an easy decision to make because she was so intellectually non-stimulating, and her sense of humor, if you can call it that, centered around gossip about her friends, none of whom I had ever met, so the jokes constantly escaped me. It was a simple matter of not calling her any more. She called once or twice when I was out, and I never called back. Case closed.

Which left the nurse and Mel. The biggest drawback with Mel, initially, was that she just never seemed to talked. I joked with her over dinner once that she was a "conversational black hole." I tried different conversational topics with her, I tried jokes, I tried everything, but to no avail. Despite my best efforts, she acted as though she was being interrogated by the FBI. It was frustrating, and I very nearly ended it.

The nurse, on the other hand, was a conversational fountain, always talking and joking and making insightful comments. So, it seemed like a no-brainer. The nurse was the girl to go with, hands down. Well, until Mel and I went for a 20 mile rollerblading sojourn in late August that is. The trek took us into the countryside, and it was quiet, and suddenly Mel was not. She talked freely and openly and, most importantly, she was delightfully funny. And she totally got my jokes, and she laughed with the most intoxicating giggle I had ever heard. For a few hours that afternoon, I found myself not thinking about the nurse. I thought about Mel, and I enjoyed her company thoroughly.

>From there, it came down to chemistry.

With the nurse, I always felt a stilted intimacy, as if we were secretly consulting mental intimacy books and going through the step-by-step instructions. I remember coming up with lame excuses not to go to the bedroom with her. Even though my groin was yelling "hey, what about me?!" my head was thinking, "this isn't right; something's not there."

Mel and I, however, had intimate chemistry. Tons of intimate chemistry. Ridiculous excesses of intimate chemistry. Contact came easy, fluid. Kissing was passionate and unabashed. We became those icky people you see in malls with arms around each other. Yes, that's us. Bedroom time is every time. Right now is the best possible time to have sex. I focused on Mel and extricated myself from the nurse. By the way, if anybody out there knows a good way to break up, please let me know your method. You know, just in case.

For six months now, Mel and I have been going out, making pilgrimmages to see each other on the weekends, and stealing time when possible during the week. We have yet to fight, and we have no problem with the other wanting to do something different and without them occasionally. It's a good relationship, and a healthy one. It's been a gradual process of getting to know one another, with both of use apparently sharing the belief that relationships are not lighting, they are work. Lightning blinds, and lightning numbs, and that's no environment to expose your most precious feelings.

And on Christmas Eve, after six months, I told her I loved her. And it only took me 1.5 bottles of wine to do it. I was figuring three bottles, easy.

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

January 03, 2003

Ballroom Blix I guess the

Ballroom Blix

I guess the original group who sang Ballroom Blitz was Sweet-any, or Sweet, or something forgettable like that. What was unforgettable was watching Tia Carrere in Wayne's World shrieking away the lyrics of the song while wearing red lingerie. Anyway, while winging my way to Hawaii last week, I was toggling between Time Magazine, which featured a picture of UN Weapons inspector Hans Blix, and a Playboy featuring nude pictures of Tia Carrere. Well, one thing led to another, and my brain gave birth to this little bit of satire. Enjoy.

Are you ready, "W"? Aha.
Rumsfeld? Yeah! Franks? OK.
Alright, fellas, let's go!

Oh it's been getting so hard
Livin' with the things Saddam does to me, aha
Oh the reports are getting so strange
I'd like to know everything Saddam sees

Saddam lives in Iraq
And we'd love to attack, and kill every one of his sons
But there's a UN girl in the corner, and we'd like to ignore her
'Cause she always wants to spoil our fun

Oh, yeah, it was like lightning, terrorism is frightening
But the UN needs soothing. Why can't they all just start boozing?
Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah

So we'll send a man to Iraq
Before we attack, a Swedish man named Hans Blix
And the UN girl in the corner said
Saddam we wanna warn ya, we're sending over Hans Blix

Ha-ans Blix, Ha-ans Blix, Ha-ans Blix, Ha-ans Blix

He's looking around for weapons
Searching around is all he's allowed to do
Looking over Saddam's shoulder
Just hunting for a single nuke or two, aha

Now Saddam in Iraq
Doesn't seem ready to crack as he shoots a rifle randomly in the sky
And the UN girl in the corner, well no one needs to warn her
That the U.S. could kill Saddam in the blink of an eye

Oh yeah, it was electric, so frightfully hectic
And cruise missiles started leaving, and Saddam ceased his breathing

Oh yeah, it was like lightning, and the air raids were frightening
And the Iraqis were losing, and they all started boozing

Blix, Blix, Ha-ans Blix, Blix, Blix, Ha-ans Blix
Blix, Blix, Ha-ans Blix, Blix, Blix, Ha-ans Blix

Posted by Ryan at 02:32 PM | Comments (0)

The Meaning of Ryan Thanks

The Meaning of Ryan

Thanks to the Two Kims and Erik for pointing me here. Go ahead. I dare you to find out what your name means. Here's my synopsis, with paranthetical asides provided by me.


Your first name of Ryan has given you a very practical, hard-working (*cough, cough* BULLSHIT! *cough, cough*), systematic nature. Your interests are focused on technical (I'm a technical writer, so that's kinda freaky), mechanical, and scientific things, to the exclusion of interests of an artistic, musical, or social nature. You have a rather skeptical outlook on life (Me?) and rather materialistic standards (gimme, gimme, gimme!). In reaching your goals, you are very independent (yes, but only because everybody else does things so wrong) and resourceful, patient and determined. You can be so very positive and definite in your own ideas and opinions that others sense a lack of tact and friendliness in your manner of expression (Me?). You are inclined to be rather demanding and self-centred in your personal wants, and your own desires can be so overriding that you fail to recognize or appreciate the feelings, opinions, or desires of others (Others? Who needs others when I have me?). As a consequence, difficulties in relations within the family or with close associates can arise. Weaknesses in the health centre in the head, and in the stomach and intestinal organs (But not the penis, thank Heavens).

Posted by Ryan at 10:49 AM | Comments (0)

January 02, 2003

And the Winner For All

And the Winner For All Time Best Web Searches That Ended Here Is. . . The Envelop Please. . .

There have been some doozy Web searches conducted by wayward surfers who ended up on this obscure blog. I don't judge. Sure, I make fun of some of them, but I don't judge. If three-quarters of all my visitors happened to come here searching for "Exposed+Thongs," who am I to sit on high an question their fetish?

But today I laughed, and I mean laughed so hard I think my left testicle broke open. Normally, a broken left testicle would cause a man great pain, but I couldn't even wince slightly through the laughter.

Some kindred soul, utilizing a Netscape.com search engine (a.k.a. Google), landed at my site after doing a search on "masturbating+lessons+needed+pictures+please."

Now, I'm a man with a creative imagination, so I'm left envisioning a 12-year old boy, new to the sensations overtaking his tiny body. Now, he's heard about masturbation, but he's unsure how to go about but, bookworm that he is, practically raised on the Internet, he consults the Web to learn best how to pleasure himself. What's more, he needed pictures to help him through the process, step-by-step illustrations preferably.

And, to top it all off, he's such a polite individual, he included "please" with his search. Such a good boy.

Well, I feel bad that my site probably didn't help guide this poor person learn how to masturbate correctly, and I want to make sure all other such searches are guided to masturbatory release. So. . .

Take your hand, either right or left, and wrap it snugly, but not too tight, around your penis shaft. Now, repeatedly, but not too vigorously (unless you like it like that), move your wrapped hand up and down the shaft. You should feel a pleasant sensation. Don't be alarmed, since this is normal and should increase in intensity. Combine the movement with either photographic stimulation (this professional suggests Chic or Hustler or Penthouse) or simply close your eyes and imagine someone naked (female or male, according to preference), trying, of course, to steer away from family members (you sicko). Eventually, you should feel a certain explosive immediacy, as if you suddenly have to pee really, really bad, but it feels so good you don't want it to end. Ever. This is called an impending orgasm, otherwise known as "the point of no return." Now, depending on your level of puberty development, you may experience a discharge of a fluid. Again, don't be alarmed. This is normal. Simply be sure to have a Kleenex or a dust rag handy for catching and clean-up afterwards. Socks also work well, depending on how often you do laundry.

So, there you have it. Male masturbation made easy. Keep in mind, my own expertise in this matter in no way indicates an unhealthy propensity toward self-pleasure. Now, if you'll excuse me, I must shower. No, really, I mean it. I'm going to go shower. Fine. Don't believe me, but I'm really going to go shower. jerks.

Posted by Ryan at 09:03 PM | Comments (0)

January 01, 2003

This was supposed to appear

This was supposed to appear two nights ago, but the Mac I was working on wasn't apparently Blogger friendly, so the post had to wait. I'm home now. And tired. Need a nap.

They're All Going to Honk At You!

Last day in paradise, and I'm back in an Internet cafe because I'm a loser. However, I'm also engaged in conversation with a really hot blonde wearing a pink bikini top, who once worked at Hooters, so geekdom isn't really all that bad.

We ate at a Vietnamese restaurant tonight, which was excellent, and made the ridiculously expensive Italian place we ate at last night seem like Pizza Hut with a nice view. And it was a hell of a lot cheaper. A note to those of you contemplating a Hawaii vacation: remember that "expensive" does not in any way equal "quality cuisine."

Just a sidenote: the hot blonde, right this minute, is adjusting her bikini strap, and I think I'm sprouting a boner. For those of you who read me regularly, you know this is a fairly common occurence. I'm all about the ill-timed, perpetual boner sprouting.

So, anyway, I decide to have my parents drop me off at a shopping complex pretty close to our condo. My dad stops in the middle of traffic, and I fumble with the door because I can't see the lock.

"Hurry up!" yelps my father. "Or they're going to honk at me!"

I stopped my door fumbling and looked at my father's reflection in the rearview mirror quizzically.

"Oh, Heaven forbid they honk at you!" I laughed. "There's no bigger shame than being honked at. That's worse than being caned in the buttocks in Singapore."

The car behind us finally began a vigorous tootling of the horn, and I exited the vehicle. But I wasn't finished. Even as my parents drove away, I pretended to drop a coin in front of the car behind me, and I executed a thorough search of the street, totally infuriating the driver, who leaned out the window and started calling me every expletive imaginable. I cast him an innocent look and gestured to my chest in the international sign language of "Who? Me?"

"Yes, you! You fucking cocksucking cocksucker!" he said, showing an adept ability at doubling up on a cocksucker insult.

At that point, I started a slow stroll across the road, prompting the angry motorist to lay on his horn with renewed vigor. Then, just as I exited his lane, an entire family of people crossed his path, and the father winked at me and said, "Watch this."

With that, the wonderful soul pretended to drop a coin, and he, his wife, and three kids started an intense search of the area for a non-existing coin, initiating a prolonged horn blowing the likes of which has probably never been heard in the Hawaiian islands. When the family finally exited the street, the motorist let loose with the most ridiculous tire burn I've ever seen. The father and I exchanged a thumbs up, and I'm still laughing at this moment, despite a lingering boner.

Well, the hot blonde is leaving, so there's no reason for me to tap away at this Macintosh. Yes, a Macintosh. The simplicity, ease-of-use, common-sense menu, and impossibly cute design is aggravating to the extreme, let me tell you. Sure, it's perfect in most ways, but can it play Aliens Versus Predator 2? No. Steve Jobs, that's your next task. Make your computers universally friendly to games, not just dorks who want to edit photos and digital movies. Then you'll have a consumer base.

That's my input for today folks, and remember: no matter how nice of a person you are, no matter how great you are and how wonderful you may be, they're all going to honk at you, so you may as well have fun with them.

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 10:42 AM | Comments (0)
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