February 28, 2003

Testing Out Credit Cards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Ryan at 11:26 AM | Comments (1)

February 27, 2003

"I Almost Learned Japanese Once,"

"I Almost Learned Japanese Once," c. Ryan Rhodes, Feb. 18, 2003

For me, learning a foreign language is the linguistic equivalent of getting kicked repeatedly in the groin, only not as fun.

My first, and really only, experience learning a language other than English came when I moved to Japan my senior year of high school. Now, having grown up and spent my life in Harmony, Minn., I had pretty limited exposure to what the rest of the world was like. At that time, I thought Japan consisted of rickshaws and ninjas and superior automobiles and electronics.

Upon arriving, however, there were no rickshaws or ninjas to be seen, though I suspect they were hiding behind all the superior automobiles and electronics. In all seriousness though, the one contingency I had not prepared for became glaringly obvious almost immediately. In short, I learned that the Japanese have an irritating habit of speaking, well, Japanese. Who knew? Here was this entire country speaking a language other than English. I didn't know how to react to such craziness.

Actually, how I reacted initially was to simply point and grunt my way through stores and restaurants. This technique worked remarkably well, but I couldn't help but feel there must be a better, less rude, way.

Eventually, my school provided the solution I needed in the form of a beginners Japanese class. The class consisted of about 10 students of varying degrees of Japanese obliviousness, and a dynamo of a teacher, Toki-sensei.

Learning a foreign language in a classroom setting is an exercise in irritation and humiliation. On the one hand, you have students who pick up the nuances of the language with maddening ease, while on the other hand you have people like me who can't absorb anything not English-related.

One student in particular, of Chinese heritage, understood many of the complicated kanji characters that make up the Japanese written language, and he delighted in showing off with irritating regularity. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who wanted to tackle him out of his desk and choke him until he was only faintly breathing. I would sit and listen to him drone on and on, just seething, wondering "Why!? Why are you in this class!? Why!?"

And then there was Toki-sensei. Always upbeat, she would encourage me, and the other struggling students, the way parents encourage their children to take their first steps. And even she lost patience with the Chinese know-it-all on occasion, so I was obligated to like her.

To say I was shaky at speaking Japanese would be a severe understatement. I never fully grasped their sentence structure and their multitude of ways of saying the same thing, each one more correct than the next, depending on the situation. They have so many ways to count things, I lost count.

So, there I sat, battling through dialog, with Toki-sensei coaching me along as I spouted forth such every day sentences as "The weather is nice. How much is that? I'll take three of those hamburgers. Should we take the train to the coffee shop?" Now, I didn't drink coffee, but I considered starting just so that last sentence wouldn't go to waste.

Of course, any illusions I may have developed in class that I may actually be catching on were quickly shattered once I went back into the reality of daily Japanese life. The Japanese didn't seem to understand that I was only a beginner. I think they should develop little buttons you can wear so people know your level of language proficiency, and they can slow their speech down accordingly.

As it was, there were no buttons, and the standard speed of conversational Japanese hovers somewhere around Mach 4. I would laboriously ask a store clerk how much something was, only to be greeted with a torrent of Japanese that sounded like an Alvin and the Chipmunks record played super fast.

The school year eventually came to a close, and I flew back to attend college here in Minnesota, where people speak English, well, for the most part, and I quickly lost what little Japanese I had learned. Then, about two years ago, a Japanese company in America, having seen my resume online, contacted me about a job that paid $75,000 a year for a Japanese to English translator.

"I almost learned Japanese once," I offered hopefully. "But I didn't."

I didn't get the job.

Posted by Ryan at 03:29 PM | Comments (1)

Yo, Saddam. . . Debate

Yo, Saddam. . . Debate This!

Apparently, there are some people out there, presumed to be living in a doped up world of la-la land, who actually think a debate between Saddam Hussein and George W. Bush would actually accomplish something. To those people I ask, "How much dumber are you willing to allow yourself to be?" Simply because Dan Rather glommed onto the only intelligible piece of nonsense from his much-hyped interview with Hussein doesn't mean the Iraqi dictator intends to do anything but stall even further.

And, even if Hussein is serious, let's put his offer into context by looking at how the Hussein/Rather interview was conducted. If this is the standard Iraqi practice for conducting Hussein interviews, I ask you, in all seriousness, if it makes any sense at all to put Bush and Saddam up against each other in what amounts to a political version of really bad reality TV.

(CBS) This interview was taped on February 24, 2003, by Iraqi TV crews, as is standard practice for Hussein, and the Iraqis delivered a tape that combined all three cameras into one composite feed. However, as far as we can determine, the content of the interview is intact. There are places in the tape where two people are talking at once and there are repetitions. This is a transcript of that composite tape and we apologize if it is confusing in places.

In places? This whole freaking interview is one giant jumble of "what the fuck?" But, don't take my word for it:

Rather: I want to ask questions in two categories, please. Category one would be those questions that I think many, if not most, of Americans would like to have answered about the news of right now. And in category two, more philosophical questions.

Translator For Saddam Hussein: The news are with you. News are almost (UNINTEL) (Editor's Note: "UNINTEL" refers to a sound or word that the transcriber finds unintelligible.) different way. But the facts news are there, with you.

Makes perfect sense to me. "Luke, the news are with you. I am your father." Is this how a Bush/Hussein debate would start, with a jumbled mess of unintelligible garbage? And remember, this is the content after CBS did it's damndest to translate and piece together what the Iraqis ALLOWED CBS to have. Can you imagine what the Iraqi people were allowed to see? But, let's continue:

Rather: Mr. President, do you intend to destroy the Al-Samoud missiles that the United Nations prohibits? Will you destroy those missiles?

Translator For Saddam Hussein: We have committed ourselves to Resolution. We're implementing that resolution in accordance with what the United Nations wants us to do. It is on this basis that we have conducted ourselves, and it is on this basis that we will continue to behave. As you know, it a-- is allowed to produce - r- r- land-land rockets, with a range of up to 150 kilometers. And we are committed to that.

Rather: I want to make sure that I understand, Mr. President. So, you do not intend to destroy these missiles?

If Rather can't even understand what the heck is going on, what the hell chance do we run-of-the-mill Americans have? But aside from that, we also see how Saddam avoided the question all together, saying that Iraq is working for compliance while sidestepping the obvious question about destroying missiles.

Rather: Mr. President, I do appreciate your agreeing to spend an hour, because I want to ask questions in two categories, please.

What just happened? A skip in the tape, and all of a sudden Rather is thanking Saddam for his time? What about the missile question?

Rather: So, you do not intend to destroy these missiles?

Okay, I guess we're back. But, really, WTF?

Translator For Saddam Hussein: Which is that? Which missiles are you talking about? We do not have missiles that go beyond the prescribed ranges, by the…U.N. The inspection teams have been here. They have inspected every place. And if there is a question to that effect, I think the question should be addressed to them.

What? If I understand correctly, instead of asking Saddam Hussein about his own weapons, Dan Rather should be asking the weapons inspectors. Apparently, it's just too much for the Iraqi dictator to remember all the trucks he's had loaded with WMD and carted around the country. So, please, ask the inspectors.

Translator For Saddam Hussein: I think the United States and the world also knows that there is - I think the U.S. and the world know that Iraq is - no longer has the (UNINTEL)-- weapons. And--

Translator For Saddam Hussein: You have started your questions with the sort of (UNINTEL) and (UNINTEL), but not with the - However, you're free to (UNINTEL) whichever way you'd like.

Well, if you're free to UNINTELL and UNINTELL, then by all UNINTELL, go ahead and UNINTELL. This reminds me of the Smurfs, where everything was a smurf or just smurfy.

Rather: B--

Translator For Saddam Hussein: May I translate?

Rather: Yes, please.

At this point, I think, the translator must have realized that he was abou four hours away from a freshly slit throat, so he started translating out of his ass.

Translator For Saddam Hussein: Thank you. The President says, the United States - the world - knows that there is nothing in Iraq of… whatever the noise has been made about. And I believe that that noise and the fleets that have been brought around and the mobilization that's been done were, in fact, done partly to cover the huge lie that was being waged against Iraq about chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

Oh, THAT noise.

And it was on that basis that Iraq actually accepted Resolution - accepted it, even though Iraq was absolutely certain that what it had said, what the Iraqi officials…had kept saying, that… Iraq was empty, was void of any such weapons, was the case. But Iraq accepted that resolution… in order not to allow any misinterpretation of its position.

And, indeed, in order to make the case absolutely clear that Iraq was no longer in possession of any such…weapons. Iraq accepted to agree to deal with that resolution. That is why, when you talk about such missiles, these missiles have been destroyed. There are no missiles that are contrary to the prescription of the United Nations in Iraq.

Well, except for those pesky missiles the inspectors accidently turned up awhile back that were designed to carry chemical warheads. How DID they miss those?

These missiles were des - missiles that were proscribed - have been destroyed and are no longer there.

Thank Allah for swift moving trucks staying one step ahead of inspectors.

Rather: What do you consider to be the core issues? You said that I had started - and indeed, I started with the news of the day. But what do you consider to be the core issue, the basic issue?

Translator For Saddam Hussein: In all divine religions, god, the Almighty, has reiterated to man in all his Holy Books and to humanity, in general, that there are two basic, most important things in life, that is, after the issue of the creation and of the issue of faith.

These two important things are food and peace. This is in Islam, this is also in Christianity and in all the other religions. So, the most important thing for man in his life and the preservation of his life and preservation of the lives of others is to establish peace and security for himself and, through that, his right to life.

Not only to obtain food, but also to obtain - to insure peace, and so that man can exercise his right in life and exercise his role towards others in the same way as he would like others to exercise their roles.

Food and peace? Can you imagine if, in our Constitution, instead of the pursuit of "Life, Liberty and The Pursuit of Happiness," the framers had opted for "Food and Peace?" Kind of leaves a lot of room for translation, to say nothing of torture and fear and summary execution. I get a kick out of the variation of the golden rule at the end there. So, how, I wonder, does Saddam validate his invasion of Kuwait. Was he exercising his role towards Kuwait in the same way as he wanted Kuwait to exercise its role? I wonder.

Rather: Mr. President, do you expect to be attacked by an American-led invasion?

Translator For Saddam Hussein: We hope that the attack will not take place. But we are bracing ourselves to meet such an attack, to face it. I'm sure you've observed the general life in Iraq. You've been here for a few days now. We hope that such a possibility doesn't take place, but you've been here. You've been here for a few days, and you've seen how the people live. They live normally. They get married. They establish relationships. They visit each other. They visit their neighbors.

They get arrested. They get tortured. They watch their loved ones get tortured. They get gassed. They die by the thousands during Saddam's reign, with the death toll numbering over one million so far.

They travel around Iraq. They are enjoying life in the manner that life is provided. But at the same time, they also hear the news…because the officials in the United States keep talking about attacking Iraq, about the possibility of attacking Iraq, which is why the people are in Iraq, which is only natural - that they get prepared for such a possibility.

Even though, God Almighty invites us…and we hope that -- we pray to him that -- the Americans will refrain from such an eventuality -- to avoid both the Americans -- to spare the Americans from committing such a mistake -- and also to spare Iraq and the Iraqi people from being involved in such an experience. And those who would like to ride the bandwagon of evil, it's up to them.

Just for the record, I'd love to see a parade featuring a float entitled, "The Bandwagon of Evil." I think a good Wagner tune would complement that nicely.

Rather: Are you afraid of being killed or captured?

Translator For Saddam Hussein: Whatever Allah decides. We are believers. We believe in what he decides. There is no value for any life without imam, without faith. The believers, while taking caution and care and trying to veer out and avoid any dangers and any traps that may be prepared by his enemies, in order not to fall on them, the believer still believes that what God decides is acceptable.

Of course, it helps if you have loyal bodyguards, an arsenal of personal weaponry, and you haven't actually appeared in public for over five years, but, overall, the will of Allah prevails.

Translator For Saddam Hussein: When we were--

Translator For Saddam Hussein: Bear with me. I - my - my answers are (UNINTEL) long.

Rather: Mr. President, I have all night. (LAUGHTER)

Nothing like a good belly laugh with a despotic dictator to ease tensions.

Translator For Saddam Hussein: When we were young, ordinary people in… Iraq, before, the Iraqi people had suffered a lot of deprivation and backwardness. People did not even find - many people did not even find.

Male Voice: Are you satisfied with translation?

Because, you know, if you're not, we could have him killed or something.

Rather: Yes, no, the translation is excellent. It's superb.

And now for a butt-load of patting himself on the back.

Translator For Saddam Hussein: Did you - people - generally did not even find - shoes to wear, in those days. And - people in the countryside were deprived of most essential things in life. And people even in the city were deprived of the most basic - requirements for a decent life. For a simple life.

We, those days, decided to place ourselves to the service of our people, and I'm not going to indulge in a story about what we did for our people and the sacrifices that we made and the dangers that we went through in order to insure for our people the dignity that our people deserve, because this is a story well known, and I am not going to indulge into that.

But in those days, we did not ask the question whether we were going to live or die, but we simply relied on Allah and we moved ahead. We relied on God because we decided that what Allah brought will be acceptable.

The important thing, the basic thing, is that whatever Allah accepts will be in the service of the people and now, after having achieved all this march, having reached what we have reached, now we've become leaders of the country. Some of my comrades are ministers and vice presidents and the rest. We're not going to ask ourselves now whether we should change our course or whether we should ask about life and death.

MALE VOICE: It's morally unacceptable to ask such a question.

It's morally unacceptable? So much for freedom of speech, even for Saddam Hussein apparently.

Translator For Saddam Hussein: How could we ask such a question when we, basically, as freedom fighters, did not ask it at the beginning? The people accepted us and accepted the fact of our revolution and the principles of our revolution, and they have committed themselves to them. And I do not believe that any officials in this place now should ask a question whether he's going to live or die.

The question should be how deeply in strength he remains to his commitment to the people, to the basic principles from which we proceeded. And whatever the will of God is, then the will of God will be there. Nothing is going to change the will of God.

Male Voice: (UNINTEL) to- to the - Iraqi people, and humanity in general, also.

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

There's much, much more, and you can read it all here. There's some interesting tidbits about Osama bin Laden and Al Queda.

But, in my mind, Hussein would have nothing more to say in a Bush/Hussein debate than he did with Dan Rather. He's simply trying to saddle himself with protestors who are too incensed about war, and too lazy to do research about how repugnant Saddam actually is. He knows this is his final hour (hopefully) and he knows the Bush administration will call his bluff at every turn. His time has come and gone, and there's no room for additional debate.

Posted by Ryan at 03:28 PM | Comments (0)

February 26, 2003

Hey, Cabbie, Can I Give

Hey, Cabbie, Can I Give You A Push?

Last night, I found myself behind a taxi cab, pushing it to freedom from the icy grip of the side of the road. The kicker: it was OUR taxi.

One thing I repeatedly take for granted in Minnesota is the speed and efficiency of the snow removal crews. Sure, I bitch about the 1 to 4 snow to sand ratio, and the salt is pretty much eating my car away right now as I type, but damn if those roads aren't kept amazingly clear even during the worst snowfall.

Here in Dallas, one inch of snow, one ridiculous inch of snow, has effectively shut down the downtown area for two straight days. Last night, as our taxi crept cautiously from one intersection to the next, we watched buses and shuttles bounce helplessly from one curb to the other, unable to find traction due to one stinking inch of snow packed down to the consistency of polished steel. Then, suddenly, it was our turn.

Our taxi inched toward an intersection, the driver over-corrected when the wheels spun ever so slightly, and we just kind of glided to the side of the road, hit the curb, and stuck there. There was nothing we could do, really, but offer to get out and push. This was a massive task, because finding a foot hold on anything meant initiating a small mining operation with the heel of the shoe to provide any semblance of traction. The ordeal was made even more difficult because our taxi driver had no clue how to free an ice-trapped automobile.

For the record, for you readers in warmer climates, you do NOT simply step on the gas. This does not work. It should be a rocking process, gradually moving back and forth, gaining forward momentum with each rock ahead, with pushers providing the needed extra oomph. It took awhile to explain and coordinate this process with a taxi driver who was flustered and embarrassed.

We freed the cab and our fare was waived, though I still gave him a five dollar tip. One of the co-workers asked if he would be willing to take us to the airport today, to which he responded, "No, Ma'am, I don't."

Last day in Dallas. I'm ready to come home.

UPDATE: This girl can wash my car any day.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Roselyn Sanchez is apparently a hot search term today, so I'm going to repeat her name her a bunch of times to boost my traffic. Roselyn Sanchez. Roselyn Sanchez. Roselyn Sanchez. Roselyn Sanchez. Roselyn Sanchez. Roselyn Sanchez. Roselyn Sanchez. Roselyn Sanchez.

Posted by Ryan at 11:25 AM | Comments (0)

February 25, 2003

Tech Bubble Burst My Ass

Tech Bubble Burst My Ass

If there's one lesson that I learn again and again in this job is that the tech bubble never burst. It is at full inflation. People just haven't figured out how to appropriately market it yet. As I immerse myself in this world of tech geeks, it's painfully obvious that the enthusiasm and development of the technology world is alive and well.

True, in the late, late, late, 90s, ill-informed folks with unbridled ambition used technology to make themselves wealthy without understanding the way business and technology really work (see pets.com), but technology never died because of that; the only thing that died were 1,000+ Internet sites that envisioned unlimited profits without understanding a profitable business model.

Some of the shit being paraded around here is light years ahead of anything most businesses will ever see, but they better, because they won't be able to compete without it.

Posted by Ryan at 06:38 PM | Comments (1)

Beer Instead of JFK One

Beer Instead of JFK

One of my co-workers, Kelly, and I took the short train ride down to the grassy knoll. Okay, not really. We were supposed to visit the JFK assasination site, but a little thing called snow, an inch of it, has apparently closed down Texas. The entire state of Texas. Closed. Again, not really, but it seems like it at times.

Instead, Kelly and I scoped out the area (no pun intended), just in case the JFK thing opens up tomorrow and we can actually get in. After a quick perusal, we stopped in at a huge Mexican restaurant that was pretty much deserted and ordered a couple of beers. And what beers they were! Huge, monstrous bells of amber delight. Of course, after a couple, I now have a slight buzz on and I have to sit in on interviews for the next few hours.

UPDATE: This is no ordinary snow. This is a strange hard-packed veneer that can only be safely traversed via ice skates. One of my meetings was cancelled because the guy I was supposed to speak with went off the road, not once, but twice before turning around and going home. I stand by my earlier statement.


Posted by Ryan at 03:14 PM | Comments (1)

Cowboys Can't Deal With Snow

Cowboys Can't Deal With Snow

I watched the evening news with a huge smile last night. Apparently, Dallas is not used to snowfall, and they were at a total loss as to how to deal with a full inch of accumulation. It was hysterical, watching these newscasters, bundled from head to toe, trying to convey the nastiness of an INCH of snow. In Minnesota, an inch of snow is the equivalent of a slight sprinkle.

Dallas is not equipped to deal with such a monumental weather phenomenon, and the streets today remain white, while motorists try to navigate the strange new surroundings. I was greeted on the elevator this morning by a frazzled Texan who exclaimed, "I've never seen anything like this!"


Posted by Ryan at 11:19 AM | Comments (0)

The French Waiter Who Needs

The French Waiter Who Needs a Foot in His Ass

Last night, after eight consecutive hours of shmoozing with no eating, myself and five other co-workers went to the hotel restaurant to eat, a little French establishment on the ground floor of the Le Meridien. I have never, and I mean never ever never, had a waiter such as this. It took ten minutes to get menus, and ten minutes after that to get drinks, but it was when we were ordering that this French surrender monkey showed his true colors.

One of my female co-diners was in the middle of ordering, when the table behind us asked the waiter for a fresh bottle of wine. To our absolute amazement, our waiter, who had been less than hospitable to begin with, turned around while in mid-order and began pouring wine for the table behind us, and then he disappeared to get them a fresh bottle. He did not return for 10 minutes. WTF?

And he was the Employee Of The Month, or so it said right below his name-tag. I can't imagine what the worst employee is like. Sheesh.

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

February 24, 2003

The Expo Floor of the

The Expo Floor of the Over-eager

The expo floor opened at 4 p.m. today, and within ten minutes I was inundated with promotional crap. Sure, a "I'm DIGNIFIED" button provided by Dignus seems witty, but after three minutes of wearing it, and getting some incredulous glances, I decided that wearing an "I'm DIGNIFIED" button is contradictory somehow. Also, if I see one more cloth frisbee tossed over my head, I may have to poke the thrower's eyes out with my "I'm DIGNIFIED" button. There would be a certain amount of poetic justice there I think.

In other news, I'm wearing those new stain resistant Dockers that don't wrinkle and keep their crease even if you were to throw yourself off a hotel balcony and land on your "I'm DIGNIFIED" button. For a man that can't quite wrap his mind around the concept of an iron, these pants are a God-send, so, thank you God.

And, finally, I'm told there's a JFK museum really close to my hotel, and, according to reports, JFK is still dead.

Posted by Ryan at 05:31 PM | Comments (0)

Minnesota Follows Me Everywhere Okay,

Minnesota Follows Me Everywhere

Okay, this is Dallas, and Dallas is 32 degrees, which is cold, for Dallas, from what I hear. The only satisfaction I take thus far is that Minnesota is battling -37 degrees, which is cold, for Mars, from what I hear.

In other news, I ran five miles on a treadmill today, and I decided that I don't like treadmills. After five miles at 8 mph, I defy you to disembark and successfully walk straight, even with a four minute warm-down. Won't happen. I walked straight into the water cooler.

News update. A beer would really hit the spot right about now.

Posted by Ryan at 03:46 PM | Comments (0)

A Close Shave in Dallas

A Close Shave in Dallas

You know, if you shave your head, as I do, you fall in love with the Mach 3 blade really fast. So, when I opened my bag last night and discovered that I had forgotten mine, there were many expletives shared with the hotel walls. I went on a pilgrimmage in downtown Dallas today to find a Mach 3, but to no avail. I had to content myself with those plastic torture devices available at the hotel gift shop. These things haven't seen active use since the practice of bloodletting.

End result? A couple of nicks and, if you have ever shaved your head, you know that head nicks don't stop bleeding until sometime next week.

Anyway, more updates as time and events warrant.

Posted by Ryan at 12:20 PM | Comments (1)

February 21, 2003

Gozz Was A Friend of

Gozz Was A Friend of Mine

Ryan says: What does SAP stand for?

Mark G. says: i think i know this one

Mark G. says: what context is it used in

Mark G. says: i have heard this one

Ryan says: I just know it's a widely-used enterprise resource planning (SAP) package.

Ryan says: Whoops (ERP)*

Mark G. says: ERP??

Ryan says: enterprise resource planning = ERP I'm trying to figure out what SAP stands for.

Mark G. says: Enterprise Resource Planning

Ryan says: *slapping Gozz upside the head* I KNOW what ERP stands for. What does SAP stand for?

Mark G. says: not sure

Ryan says: *takes 4 gold friendship stars down from Gozz's name and puts over Haugen's name*

Mark G. says: FU

Mark G. says: what is it

Ryan says: It's a company, not an acronym.

Ryan says: http://www.sap.com/

Mark G. says: i have heard SAP talked about around here

Ryan says: Yeah, but they're saying, "That Gozz is such a sap." That's not the same thing.

Mark G. says: im done with you ... leave me now

Ryan says: You'll never get your gold friendship stars back with that attitude.

Posted by Ryan at 04:24 PM | Comments (1)

Despair Before Dallas James Lileks

Despair Before Dallas

James Lileks writes: Thanks to LGF and MEMRI, I've become somewhat familiar with the torrents of venom that pour from some mosques in the Middle East. The excerpts I've read always end with a plea to God to rev up the slaughter ASAP, with the Jews and the Crusaders being first in line for righteous smiting. There's a lot of talk about shaking the ground under their feet, terrifying the sons of monkeys, etc etc. On the cool medium of a laptop screen the words look, well, silly. Hateful, yes. Poisonous, yes. But pathetic: they think they're shouting from the mountaintop at the dawn of a glorious day, but they're just ranting in a dank bunker at midnight. In a grim sort of way, the transcripts of their sermons have seemed like comic relief.

No more. I just saw a video of one of the sermons, carried on prime-time TV in Iraq. Same old same old, with a twist: Usually the text says that the very trees will cry out there is a Jew behind me, kill him. This video had a new version: even the stone will say "a Jew is hiding behind me. Come and cut off his head."

And then the mullah pulled out a sword. That's the detail you don't get in the transcripts: these men of God are packing heat - granted, it's medieval-style slicy heat, but heat nonetheless.

"And we shall cut off his head!" he shouted, waving the sword. "By Allah, we shall cut it off! Oh Jews! Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar! Jihad for the sake of Allah! Jihad for the sake of Allah!"

Playwright Harold Pinter, speaking at last weekend's rally, said "The US is a nation out of control," and "unless we stop it, it will bring barbarism to the entire world." He said America was "a country run by a bunch of criminal lunatics with Tony Blair as a hired Christian thug."

When Blair shows up in the pulpit cleaving the air with a scimitar, let me know. When US television broadcasts a speech with Billy Graham hosting an Excalibur replica from the Franklin Mint Collection, demanding the decapitation of Muslims, let me know. When George Bush grips the podium and beseeches American rock formations to give up the location of non-Christians so we can slit their throats, and it's carried live on national TV by presidential order, drop me a line.

It takes a particularly rarified variety of idiot to look at a Jew-hating fascist with a small mustache - and decide that his opponent is the Nazi.

The amazing thing is, his point is lost on so many of the people who, just last weekend, were marching for peace. They held up posters of George W.'s head pasted over Osama bin Laden's, and equated him with Hitler. Granted, this isn't necessarily the view shared by all peace activists, but I think it says something about the cause when truly informed peace activists are willing to march alongside such idiots to make their point. That's like sitting in on a KKK rally because, although you despise them, you like how they get their message across.

It's astounding to me that so many in the world can't grasp how dangerous our own ambivalence has become. Cries for the decapitation of Jews and prayers for the eradication of the Jewish faith are disturbing to their deepest core, and yet there are those among us who can find a way to blame the West and America for Islamic hatred of Judaism. People will say, with absolute conviction, that if the Israelis abandoned all land and gave it up to the Palestinians, and if the West quit messing in Middle East affairs, our problems would be over.

But, here's the deal: Israel is just an excuse, albeit an easy excuse, for mullas and Middle Eastern leaders to trot out when they need to point fingers. "You're poor and you're sick? Well, that's the fault of the Jews! The Jews are to blame for everything!" Sound familiar? It should, because it wasn't that long ago that the Nazis used the exact same message to justify war and the extermination of 3 million or more innocents. Even if the Israelis were to pack up everything and set up a new nation in Nevada, and the U.S. military were to draw all forces out of the cesspool that is the Middle East, the mullas would cry even louder for the blood of Jews and of the Western infidels, because they have no other answers for their people.

And what's worse is that those religious leaders calling for the decapitation of Jews and jihad against the West have a willing audience. Mind you, I don't think the majority of the Islamic faithful necessarily believe the bunk being spewed forth by their so-called religious guides, but enough of them are swayed to keep the hate seething. And that simply has to change.

I hope America sees that. I hope we pour billions of dollars into Afghanistan so they can build an Islamic nation that can see beyond the hate and blind obeisance of the word of their religious leaders. I hope we invade Iraq, eject Saddam Hussein and his state-run machine of oppression and terror, and pour billions of dollars into the reconstruction of that country, building their oil industry and their infrastructure and leaving behind a nation that understands America, and the West, isn't necessarily the great satan we've been made out to be. That would be an astoundingly positive message coming from the center of the Islamic world, and it would hopefully be one that spills over its borders. And don't tell me that pouring billions into Iraq under Saddam would accomplish anything, because it won't. What little aid that makes it through sanctions now already go to line that man's pockets, and there's no reason to think additional aid would do anything but hasten his weapons programs.

Many peace activists believe that war with Iraq, or anywhere in the Middle East for that matter, will destabilize the region. Well, I certainly hope so, because Middle East "stability" as it stands now is the same stability that allowed two airplanes to strike the World Trade Center, another to hit the Pentagon, and another to fall from the skies in Pennsylvania. Is it a risk that war will possibly increase al Queda membership? Sure, but really, al Queda and other terrorist organizations aren't exactly hurting for members as it is.

Yes, peace sounds wonderful and great and all that, but in this case I think peace actually entails more risk than war. Do nothing and everything stays the same: we continue to buy duct tape and worry about terror daily. Go to war, and there's a very real chance that something positive may rise from the ashes.

Provided we do it right.

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

Posted by Ryan at 12:21 PM | Comments (1)

February 20, 2003

Lizzie Borden Took An Axe,

Lizzie Borden Took An Axe, When She Could Have Used the Guillotine

After indulging in a dual craving for popcorn followed by cookie dough ice cream last night at 11:30, sleep did not come easy. So, as is usually the case when slumber escapes me, I turned to the History Channel.

A funny thing about the History Channel is that I think they tend to believe that the only real era of historical significance was World War II. Now, I'm 28, but even I'm aware that there is more to history than WWII. Granted, it was a major big deal, and it warrants study, but come on! When you start reporting on the historical significance of toenail hygiene in the context of WWII, you've probably exhausted your topic. Also, I wish they would make up their mind as to what turned the tide of WWII. I mean, really, according to the History Channel, the infantry turned the tide of the war, no, it was the tank, no, it was the battleship, no, it was Spitfire, no, it was the tide.

Well, anyway, last night was kinda, sorta the exception, even though the content wasn't exactly what you should be watching before going to bed. At midnight, I was treated to an extensive history of the sniper, and I'm a sucker for all things sniper-related, because the modern day sniper is just a super cool infantry unit. So, I had to watch that. By the way, apparently, the sniper played a pivotal roll in WWII, and may have helped turn the tide.

I was feeling sort of drowsy by 1 a.m., but their Modern Marvels program looked at the history of executions. Now this show was pretty gruesome, so of course I was tranfixed. By the way, did you know the firing squad was the most utilized method of execution during WWII? The most disturbing footage was a covert bit of video camera work taken of the guillotine in action sometime in the 1930s. I had no idea how stunningly efficient that death tool was. They put this guy on the bench, the blade came down, his head came off, and his body violently spasmed off the bench, minus his head of course. I literally felt a disgusted shiver go down my spine. It looked so. . .so. . .so. . . *Sideshow Bob shudder*

Well, by 2 a.m., having brushed up on my history of executions, from stonings to lethal injections, I was ready for a little murder mystery. You know, something to give me pleasant dreams. Again, the History Channel came through, detailing the great murder trial of Lizzie Borden, who may or may not have axed her father and step-mother to death in 1892, which, according to historians, occurred well before WWII. Most thoroughly disgusting aspect of the show? The black and white picture they repeatedly showed of Lizzie's father, sprawled out on a couch, his head bashed in and totally unrecognizable. Whoever gave his head that axe thumping, whether Lizzie or someone else, could have been one hell of a lumberjack. Blech.

So, come 3 a.m., with my head dancing with visions of snipers, and guillotines, and axe murders, I went to bed. And you can just about imagine how fucked up my dreams were. I couldn't wait to wake up.

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

Posted by Ryan at 12:13 PM | Comments (3)

February 19, 2003

Ryan In The Sky, Without

Ryan In The Sky, Without Diamonds

And so this week begins the flurry of flights I've been dreading for over a month. On Sunday, I board a plane bound for Dallas for a convention where I'll have to shmooze with technology company representatives and sit in on mind-numbing technology seminars for three days.

Here's the deal: I've been at this magazine writing job for over a year, and not a day goes by that I don't feel like a total and complete fraud. Sure, I write extensive articles about IBM computers, and software solutions like RPG and COBOL and a whole bunch of other acronyms, but I have never, ever, ever totally understood what it is I'm writing about. I just string together impressive sounding sentences and hope my bullshit isn't questioned too intently.

And, so far, I've gotten away with it. I've been able to bullshit my way through article after article, and not only do I do it successfully, I occasionally get praised. I look back on my archives and I think "I can't believe I did that." Back in elementary school, I remember thinking how cool it would be if all my homework would be completed flawlessly as soon as it was handed out. That's sort of how I feel here. I complete my homework without at all understanding how I do it. It's like magic. And I get paid! I guess it's best not to question it.

So, yeah, anyway. Dallas. I've never been to Texas, and I probably won't be able to walk around too much during my stay, but it's always cool to add another state to the list of states I've visited. I'll be staying at a hotel called Le Meridian, which sounds super swanky and makes me want to speak French and surrender to someone. If you know of anything exciting to do in Dallas, please let me know (Kim and Kim and Mandy, this means you!).

Come the weekend of March 1 (my 28th birthday *groan*) I'll be firmly grounded in Minnesota, a brief respite before taking off for Indianapolis March 7 for yet another techology conference and more shmoozing. I can't say I'm too excited about Indianapolis (Motto: We're Located in Indiana!), because there's really nothing to look forward to. It's not like Indianapolis is the entertainment capital of the world. Hell, I've been informed that we're going to take a tour of the speedway, and personally I'd rather vomit thumb tacks. I'm not a racing fan. I'm not even remotely close to being a racing fan. First and foremost, I don't drink enough beer to qualify as a racing fan. So, Indianapolis time will likely consist of large doses of hotel room.

Finally, come March 15, Mel and I will be jetting to Colorado to stay with my brother and sister-in-law and do a little skiing at Winter Park. My sister-in-law, Jody, works there and gets discounts on everything from lift tickets, to ski rentals, to ski lessons. So, a Colorado ski trip is unusually cheap for me, what with room and board and skiing being pretty much free, and the airplane ticket being a birthday gift from the parents. Mel still had to cough up $233 to go (hey, I've only been dating her for less than a year, so she has to pay for SOME things), and she's really looking forward to the trip. I can't wait either.

So, I'll be doing a lot of airplane time over the next month, and I'll be sure to flush the toilet over your respective state in the hopes that a frozen blue cube of airplane sewage will go crashing through your roof.

And I'll probably be thinking a lot about http://www.timboucher.com/journal/wp-content/uploads/2006/11/scarlett_johansson_allure.jpg. I'll be trying to imagine Scarlett Johansson nude. Because a nude Scarlett Johansson would be pretty awesome all around.

Posted by Ryan at 03:50 PM | Comments (1)

February 18, 2003

Jeez. Poke Holes In This,

Jeez. Poke Holes In This, If You Can

Don't know where this guy came from, but he summed up many of my war views quite nicely. Disassemble it if you can.

Posted by Ryan at 03:25 PM | Comments (0)

How To Bore A Man

How To Bore A Man in Two Hours

Mel dragged me, kicking and screaming and bitching and moaning, to the cimematic catastrophe that is "How To Lose A Man In 10 Days." Okay, it wasn't THAT bad, but there were certainly other things I would have rather have done, like just about anything. How do you lose a man in ten days? Well, you can start by taking him to this movie. Even Mel admitted afterwards that it wasn't quite what she anticipated.

Make no mistake, this is a chick flick. This flick is for chicks. At no point was this more perfectly illustrated then when Mathew McConaughey takes his shirt off in his office and is ogled by three female co-workers who are apparently seaping vaginal fluid at the mere sight of his shaved chest. Try taking your shirt off in most offices and you'll be served a sexual harrasment suit, but whatever.

The premise is pretty simple: an aspiring journalist (Kate Hudson) is assigned an article for Composure Magazine meant to detail the common "don'ts" that women commit early on in relationships. In other words, she has to scare a guy away in 10 days. Unfortunately for her, her target is working to secure a multimillion dollar diamond marketing deal, and the only hitch is he has to make a certain woman fall in love with him, conveniently, in 10 days. Let the hi-jinx ensue!! *groan*

Right away, the movie falls flat for me, because it's based on the tired story of two people playing with the hearts and minds of another person for the promise of materialistic career advancement. How romantic. Kate Hudson is defintely cute, in an Avon sort of way, and if I were homosexual or female I'd probably find McConaughey to be dreamy. I can't believe I just used the term "dreamy." But, overall, this was your standard far-fetched romantic chick flick, complete with a nasty looking dog that pees on a pool table. No offense, but I saw that coming a mile away. She put the dog on the pool table, and I was thinking "well, there's either a poop or pee scene coming up here."

And why is it, in movies, that when a couple starts falling in love, the background music of choice is a piano slowly being played, apparently with one hand? What is it about a few clunky piano notes that reflects a growing emotional attachment? Why not an oboe? Perhaps a tuba? A tuba love scene would so rock.

Of course, eventually, the two scheming characters fall in love with each other, pretty much at the same time they find out that they've been playing each other. What follows is a disturbing duet that underscores just how much McConaughey is okay as eye candy, but he can't sing to save his life. Why they had to throw in the duet scene is beyond me, because it flat out didn't work. Hudson should have simply kicked McConaughey in the nuts and saved the audience a precious seven minutes.

But, being that it's Hollywood, the couple gets together in the end, following a humdrum chase scene where McConaughey pretends to ride a motorcycle through traffic. As we exited the theater, I said to Mel: "Well, that's two hours of my life I could have spent drinking," to which an unknown man behind me blurted, "That's God-damned right!"

Rating: 4 out of 10.

Posted by Ryan at 01:15 PM | Comments (1)

February 17, 2003

Ripping Apart Jill Nelson, and

Ripping Apart Jill Nelson, and Something Else to Ponder

I don't like Jill Nelson, but I read her because she provides a good exercise on how to disassemble baseless arguments. So, let's start ripping apart her latest.

NEW YORK, Feb. 15 — On a bitterly cold day, as the temperature began falling a few hours after sunrise, thousands people came to New York City.

One thing I've never been able to understand is why it's so important to point out that protesters battle the weather. So, it's bitterly cold, so what? Is the weather conspiring to keep them from demonstrating? What's you damned point? Also, please note her reference to "thousands" of people, as I'll be referring back to it.

They were people of every age, religion, ethnicity and color; people in wheelchairs, carrying signs and flags, holding hands or pushing strollers; people in Islamic veils and labor caps and fur coats. There were people carrying puppets and people carrying signs that were angry and signs that were funny. Many were bearing American flags. They came to declare their patriotism and their right to protest a pending war in Iraq at a time in which our president has intimated that to question his goals and methods in pursuit of Saddam Hussein is to flirt with treason.

How does one flirt with treason? Do you coyly bat an eye, maybe give a come-hither glance? Come on, Jill, if demonstrating against a war in Iraq is truly flirting with treason, then the whole lot of protesters would have been herded into paddy wagons and would be awaiting a court date. If you honestly believe that you're being labeled for treason, I suggest you go to some other country, oh, I don't know, Iraq, and see how treasoness voices are actually dealt with.

THERE ARE FEW transcendent moments in public life, those rare occasions when a diverse array of people share a commonality of values, vision and commitment. Today in New York and in cities around the world, such a moment was shared, as millions of people raised their voices against the war and in favor of a more peaceful alternative to strip Saddam Hussein of his weapons of mass destruction.

Notice that she says "in favor of a more peaceful alternative" without actually giving any examples. "Give peace a chance!" Any ideas how that might be accomplished? "No, but give peace a chance!"

Yet in the end those who would protest rose above the bullies, and the authorized rally for 10,000 became something far greater: crowd estimates at day's end varied from 100,000 to 400,000.

Here's what President W would call "fuzzy numbers." First, she says "thousands," now she's giving the outrageous range of 100,000 to 400,000. Who the hell made those estimates? A drunken hobo in a box? You can't just conjure 300,000 people.

Tens of thousands of people attempting to walk east to the United Nations rally were instead herded by New York City police, often with embarrassment and chagrin and sometimes with barricades and rearing horses, to march north.

Now we're back down to tens of thousands of people. Make up your damned mind. And rearing horses? I'd rear too if I saw a crowd of 400,000 people suddenly disappear into tens of thousands. I like how she makes it sound as if the government was trying to quell the protestors by issuing terror alerts and hindering their march to the U.N. Newsflash, Jill, but when a marching crowd consists of people of every ethnicity, and some of them are wearing veils, yeah, they're going to get a little fidgety when you try marching on the U.N. It's nothing personal, and certainly it's not anti-protest. They're just trying to keep a cap on potential terrorism. Hope you don't mind.

And so we walked north, sometimes chanting, sometimes silent, occasionally singing. The nature of the march, and the moment, was proud, peaceful and inclusive. This was a peace march: there was no violence. Instead, in unison, half a million people, without losing face or the peace, adapted. Would that the Bush administration could do the same.

Good idea. Let's send our troops to Iraq and have them chant and sing. Oh, and by the way, did you notice how Jill just plopped on another 100,000 people? Now it's half a million. Curious. Watch those horses rear now.

Such a moment was profoundly needed as the Bush administration continues to bully its allies into a war that few people want. Just when I thought the administration had reached rock-bottom last week, with Secretary of State Colin Powell's initial presentation to the United Nations, things got worse. Several days later the terrorist alert level was raised to orange; no doubt the administration was hoping that fear of terror would make their poll numbers might go up, too. Yet by the end of the week their war drums seemed to lack their desired effect: administration officials acknowledged that information about an impending terrorist threat was an informant's "fabrication" — that's a plain old lie to the rest of us.

I know that this is her own opinion column, but jeez, that entire paragraph was one slushy puddle of innuendo and half-truths after another. If the Bush administration was truly bullying the people into war, we'd be at war by now instead of playing additional U.N. games. We have all the justification and appropriate resolutions we need, but we haven't acted yet. Bullying my ass. And, although I'm no fan of the terror alert system, it's a pretty big leap to think it's simply a tool used to bolster poll numbers. If anything, pushing the alert to orange hurts polling numbers. I don't know about you, but if we keep toggling to higher alerts, I'd want to elect someone who could do a better job at keeping it down. And, finally, why all the buzz about "fabrication" versus "lie." In either case, the informant didn't tell the truth, and a higher level of alert was the result. What's Jill's point?

France, Germany, Russia and China, all members of the United Nations Security Council, and the majority of the member nations, do not support a war with Iraq. According to a recent New York Times poll, 59 percent of Americans feel the weapons inspectors should be given more time to do their work. Yet the President Bush and his advisors, not to mention the pundit class, engage in an orgy of Europe-bashing. It is as if they regard the nations of the world as merely client states, beholden to obey; and the media respond as if beating the drums for an impending war against Iraq is a smart career move.

I've already given my lengthy dissertation about the U.N. Synopsis: it doesn't work, particulary now that France has its finger on the veto button. Hitler himself could rise from the grave and revive the Third Reich, and France would still insist on a peaceful alternative. And China? Jill emphasizes China? China disapproves of everything the U.S. does. China. Jeez, she had to scrape the bottom of the barrel for that one. And enough with the drums already. I get it. They're beating drums. They sit in the situation room beating little bongo drums, and Rumsfeld does a neat solo on a kick ass drum set that used to belong to Motley Crue. Time for a new analogy, Jill. The drums are getting old. And the media is beholden to obey? Then how the hell did you get into print on MSNBC.com, Jill?

Today, surrounded by tens of thousands of people I have never seen before and may not again, the drums of war were muffled. I felt protected and affirmed. It was as if people all over finally realized not how differently, but how similarly we see the world. They understand the in spite of the specificity of all the differences, our belief in the power of negotiation and peace - and our right to both — unites us.

Back down to tens of thousands of people, and more fucking drums. Muffled drums, no less. Negotiation and peace, two things Saddam totally understands and adheres to.

And now, stepping away from Jill, let's visit the opposing side, borrowed from Tony Blair, so my apologies to him for an outright copy and paste.

Iraq and "War"*

Dear All,

I am writing this email after a lot of deliberation about whether I have the right to use my strange and unique position (within our group) to argue the case FOR an invasion in Iraq. But in the end I have decided that I have more to lose if I keep quiet.

Firstly, my parents, my family, are from Iraq. My parents fled from Iraq some 23 years ago leaving everything and everyone behind when at that point 17 of our relatives had been "disappeared" or imprisoned for no reason whatsoever. They sought refuge in Kuwait for 4 years, but once again were forced to flee with us (my brother and I) in tow when Saddam had the Kuwaitis deport the Iraqi men back to Iraq. On the border he had these returnees shot dead.

We were lucky; we made it safely to Britain. My father was lucky - his brother was caught trying to escape and tortured. So here I am, 19 years later, never having set foot in the country of my parents.

The anti-"war" feeling prevalent amongst people I speak to seems to me totally misjudged and misplaced. I have to be honest here and say that I feel it is based partly on a lot on misunderstanding of the situation in Iraq and partly on people's desire to seem "politically rebellious" against the big, bad Americans. And let me say, that I also agree the American government is indeed big and bad; I have no illusions about their true intentions behind an attack on Iraq.

More than you or I, the Iraqis know the ignorant and truly atrocious attitude of the American government towards most of the world's population. Iraqis felt the effect of this when America (and the rest of the West in fact) eagerly supported and supplied Saddam when he waged his war-of-attrition against Iran causing the death of 1 million Iraqis and Iranians and the disappearance of many more - there was no anti-war movement to help them.

They felt the effect of this attitude when America and the West ignored, supplied even, Saddam's use of biological weapons on the people of Halabja, killing 5000 people in one day, and causing the deformed births of babies in the area to this day.

Iraqis know well the untrustworthy nature of the Western governments when the coalition gave Saddam permission, a few days after the end of the Gulf War, to massacre the uprising peoples of Iraq when they had wrested control from him in most cities of Iraq.

The people of Iraq echo our discontentment with America and the West's policy in Iraq, for they know the realities of such a policy far better than any of us shall ever know.

I want to ask those who support the anti - "war" movement (apart from pacifists - that is a totally different situation) their motives and reasoning behind such support. You may feel that America is trying to blind you from seeing the truth about their real reasons for an invasion. I must argue that in fact, you are still blind to the bigger truths in Iraq. I must ask you to consider the following questions:

Saddam has murdered more than a million Iraqis over the past 30 years, are you willing to allow him to kill another million Iraqis?
Out of a population of 20 million, 4 million Iraqis have been forced to flee their country during Saddam's reign. Are you willing to ignore the real and present danger that caused so many people to leave their homes and families?
Saddam rules Iraq using fear - he regularly imprisons, executes and tortures the mass population for no reason whatsoever - this may be hard to believe and you may not even appreciate the extent of such barbaric acts, but believe me you will be hard pressed to find a family in Iraq who have not had a son/father/brother killed, imprisoned, tortured and/or "disappeared" due to Saddam's regime. What has been stopping you from taking to the streets to protest against such blatant crimes against humanity in the past?
Saddam gassed thousands of political prisoners in one of his campaigns to "cleanse" prisons - why are you not protesting against this barbaric act?
An example of the dictator's policy you are trying to save - Saddam has made a law to give excuse to any man to rape a female relative and then murder her in the name of adultery. Do you still want to march to keep him in power?
I remember when I was around 8 I went along with my father to a demonstration against the French embassy when the French were selling Saddam weapons. I know of the numerous occasions my father and many, many others haves attended various meetings, protests and exhibitions that call for the end of Saddam's reign. I have attended the permanent rally against Saddam that has been held every Saturday in Trafalgar Square for the past 5 years. The Iraqi people have been protesting for YEARS against the war - the war that Saddam has waged against them. Where have you been?

Why is it now that you deem it appropriate to voice your disillusions with America's policy in Iraq, when it is actually right now that the Iraqi people are being given real hope, however slight and precarious, that they can live in an Iraq that is free of the horrors partly described in this email?

Whatever America's real intentions behind an attack, the reality on the ground is that many Iraqis, inside and outside Iraq support invasive action, because they are the ones who have to live with the realities of continuing as things are while people in the West wring their hands over the rights and wrongs of dropping bombs on Iraq, when in fact the US & the UK have been continuously dropping bombs on Iraq for the past 12 years.

Of course it would be ideal if an invasion could be undertaken, not by the Americans, but by, say, the Nelson Mandela International Peace Force. That's not on offer. The Iraqi people cannot wait until such a force materialises; they have been forced to take what they're given. That such a force does not exist - cannot exist - in today's world is a failing of the very people who do not want America to invade Iraq, yet are willing to let thousands of Iraqis to die in order to gain the higher moral ground. Do not continue to punish the Iraqi people because you are "unhappy" with the amount of power the world is at fault for allowing America to wield. Do not use the Iraqi people as a pawn in your game for moral superiority - one loses that right when one allows a monster like Saddam to rule for 30 years without so much as protesting against his rule.

Some will accuse me of being a pessimist for accepting that the only way to get rid of Saddam is through force. I beg to differ; I believe I have boundless optimism for the FUTURE of Iraq, where Iraqis are able to rebuild their shattered country, where Jews, Muslims, Christians, atheists, communists - all peoples of any and all backgrounds are able to live in peace and safety and without fear of persecution. I beg you to imagine such an Iraq, such a democracy in the Middle East, and ask where in that do you see pessimism? Such an Iraq is what is being envisaged and sought by many millions of Iraqis; such an Iraq is where I hope I will be able to take my children.

If you want to make your disillusions heard then do speak out, put pressure on Blair, Bush & Co to keep to their promises of restoring democracy to Iraq. Make sure they do put back in financial aid what they have taken over the years, and make sure that they don't betray the Iraqis again. March for democracy in Iraq. If you say that we can't trust the Americans then make sure that you are a part of ensuring they do fulfil their promises to the Iraqis.

So I conclude by asking you to consider your REASONS for supporting the anti-"war" movement, and if you are going, the anti-"war" demo. If you still feel that what I have said does not sway you from this stance, then I can do no more.

In some ways I do admire the movement because it proves what people can achieve when they come together and speak out. Unfortunately for Iraq nobody spoke out earlier.

Please feel free to email me with your counter-arguments, comments, thoughts etc.

Rania Kashi

(* I use apostrophes with "war" because in truth it will be no war, but an invasion. A war presumes relatively equal forces battling against each, with resistance on both sides. A US-led force will encounter NO resistance from the Iraqi people or the army.)

Posted by Ryan at 03:17 PM | Comments (0)

Valentine's Day Success, Courtesy of

Valentine's Day Success, Courtesy of the Minnesota State Lottery

I don't like Valentine's Day. I find it to be an intrusion on an otherwise routine February. I'm going along just fine, minding my own damned business, when suddenly Hallmark dictates that I HAVE to be romantic.

I bought a nice bottle of Chianti earlier in the week, so that was taken care of, but I procrastinated on the slew of other things I intended to get her until, of course, Friday. As it turned out, this was a good thing, because on Thursday night, following my hapkido class, I bought a $5 lottery ticket on a whim when I stopped to buy milk. A few scratches later, and I was a $200 winner. "Wahl, holeeee sheeeyat!" Bring on Valentine's Day, baby, Ryan has the coin!

I jumped out of work for lunch early on Friday, swung over Hallmark, where I bought a neat candle and a sickeningly sweet Garfield card. I got back in my car, scrawled out some quick thoughts about what Mel means to me, not taking a whole lot of time to think about it and just trusting that my ability to write something great would take over.

Chianti? Check. Card? Check. Candle? Check. Japanese curry I was going to cook for her? Check. Flowers? Well, I'd have to get those after work. It was a rather funny scene after work, when I dropped by a local flower shop. There were about 15 very concerned men milling about the store in a numbed confusion. I totally understood their angst, and they didn't even have a lottery gift of $200 to work with.

I found a nice flower arrangement consisting of daisies (Mel's favorite) and red carnations, all stuck into a flower pot with a heart on it. Ugh. But, whatever. It was snowing, and the roads were shitty, and I didn't want to waste a whole bunch of time looking for a less sickening flower pot.

The road from Rochester to St. Paul was white-knuckle shitty, with slippery slush ruts and a disconcerting wind pushing me to the left. And yet, there were oblivious drivers just cruising along without a care in the world. I adhere to a strict three second following distance from the car in front of me, particularly in shitty weather. Why do other drivers think this is an invitation to slide in between me and the car in front? WHY?

Anyway, I arrived at Mel's at a little past 6 p.m. She's still getting over the effects of her pneumonia (at least that was what the doctors decreed her to have), so she was pretty groggy, having just emerged from her nap. We exchanged gifts and cards. Mel baked me a heart shaped brownie, which I'm picking at right now. *droooooollllll*

And what do you think Mel liked the best out of my battery of gifts? Well, besides the curry I cooked for her. The card, but not so much the card as what I hurriedly scrawled in it while sitting in my car outside the Hallmark store. She kept going back to read it again, and again, and again. And, I couldn't for the life of me remember what the hell I had written. I waited until she went to the bathroom to peruse my own prose.

"Mel, you make me so happy, but also so much more than that. I'm a better me because of you, and I didn't think that was possible. (smiley face). Love, Ryan."

Sounds about right.

Posted by Ryan at 01:22 PM | Comments (0)

February 14, 2003

And My Future Addiction? Command

And My Future Addiction? Command and Conquer: Generals

The Command and Conquer line of computer games has always stood head and shoulders above all other real-time strategy games, at least that's my opinion. Granted, I didn't care much for Tiberian Sun, but the original C&C, and Red Alert, and Red Alert 2 were all awesome and colossal time-killers. Each game holds special memories for me.

For the original Red Alert, I remember absentmindedly sipping a beer as I tried to pass an impossibly maddening level. A few hours later, finally victorious, I realized I had polished off a 12 pack. Drinking beer and RTS games do NOT mix. Do not try this at home. Actually, go ahead and try it at home if you must, but be sure you don't try it while driving. We'll all feel safer.

The original C&C was my very first introduction to playing somebody else on a networked computer. I wasn't very good, and I got my ass totally kicked, but I knew that the potential to play networked games, and games over the Internet, was something really special.

Red Alert 2 was pretty neat, definitely better than those that came before it, but it was still based on the same theme as the others without to much departure.

But Generals is amazing. You realize during the opening scene that you're about to play something beyond your wildest expectations. It's real-time war simulation with a modern kick. You can be the U.S., or you can be China, or you can be a GLA terrorist organization.

I wasn't sure what to think of the whole glamorization of the terrorists because, really, in this game, they're pretty hyped. This game doesn't quibble with political correctness. The terrorists are Muslim, right down to their bomb belts and turbans. This game is bound to piss a lot of people off, even though they'll be pissed off and unable to stop playing, because this game is digital addiction.

Even the first mission would have peace activists calling for a boycott of the game. Right off the bat, the U.S. is sent to encircle Baghdad. Right away. No waiting. Your tanks are at the gates of the Iraqi capital, dispatching a ragtag bunch of GLA armor shortly before they launch chemical-laden SCUDS right into a bustling bazaar, wiping out 30 civilians you've taken great pains to avoid squashing with your tanks. Sounds about right.

The graphics for Generals are enough to make Picasso drool. This is eye candy of the highest order, right down to the little puffs of dust that are swirled up by a soldier's feet and the way a body is flung 20 feet in the air when the truck he was riding in explodes. There are cut-scenes that are right of the Matrix, with 360 degree panoramas of exploding enemy units. I played the opening tutorial mission twice just to see the cutscenes over again.

I'll be away from my computer all weekend, but rest assured, come Sunday night, I'll be clicking my way through terrorists cells with U.S. heavy armor. If you want to see the next generation of RTS games, give Generals a whirl. But clear your calendar, because you'll be busy for the next couple of weeks.

Or at least I will.

Posted by Ryan at 03:17 PM | Comments (1)

Getting Totally Ripped Off By

Getting Totally Ripped Off By The Daily Show With John Stewart

Okay, I realize that it's all a big coincidence, but still, watching the Daily Show tonight, I couldn't help but feel that they owed me some sort of royalties for their piece on Korea's Taepo Dong missiles. Sure, I laughed, but the inner comedian in me cried just a little, because I reported it first, on January 13. Hell, I beat them by a whole stinking MONTH. *sniffle*

Posted by Ryan at 12:01 AM | Comments (1)

February 13, 2003

"Getting to Know Poo About

"Getting to Know Poo About the Internet" c. Ryan Rhodes, Feb. 12, 2003

I think there's something wrong with the Internet. The Internet has seemed distant lately, detached. I think someone should go check up on the Internet.

Okay, seriously, I think the Internet has gone astray. Don't get me wrong, I love the Internet. I use the Internet every day for both work and for play. For me, being without the Internet is akin to hacking off my right arm with an axe. The Internet is part of who I am.

Still, awhile back, I was reminded that for every useful aspect provided by the Internet, there are bound to be five or six useless or disturbing aspects. A friend of mine sent me a link to a Web page he thought I should check out. I don't know why my friend thought I should check out the site, but frankly I think he was just punishing me for some past transgression.

Now, I've seen some pretty amazingly disgusting things on the World Wide Web in my time. I've seen pictures of naked women, and I've seen pictures of naked men, and I've seen pictures of naked animals, and I've seen pictures of naked men, women and animals doing things you'd never see on Old McDonald's Farm. But still, even I wasn't ready for what my friend sent me.

I clicked on the link my friend sent me, and I was quickly whisked away to the magical world of "ratemypoo.com" (http://www.ratemypoo.com). For those of you not familiar with ratemypoo.com (and there's really no reason you should be, unless you have a vengeful friend sending you links), let me just fill you in.

Quite simply, if you visit ratemypoo.com, you'll be given the auspicious honor of being able to rate, on a scale of one to 10, the defecatory prowess of some very, very sick individuals. That's right folks, you just sit there and rank pictures of the poo of complete strangers.

So, what's wrong with that? What isn't wrong with that?! To start with, someone took the time to create a web site dedicated to the sole purpose of poo rating. Then, not only do people visit that site, they take the time to post their own pictures, so other people can rate their poo. What good can possibly come of this? What bigger purpose does it serve. What is this world coming to?

The logistics involved here are just staggering. First, a person has to go to the bathroom, which is a pretty universal urge I guess. But then, then, that person has to decide that his or her (really, though, I can't see women doing this) poo is worthy enough to be posted online. Then, then, they have to take a picture. Let me just repeat that so it sinks in: they have to take a picture.

Raise your hand if you've ever taken a picture of your "work" in the bathroom. Come on now, raise your hand. You there, in the back with your hand up, please remove yourself from my column, and close the door on your way out.

I simply can't fathom the concept of photographing my own poo. It's unfathomable to me. My fathoming ability can't function here. I'm totally fathomless.

Concerned, I decided to share the site with my good friend, B.J. Although he had a good laugh about it, he had to agree that it was pretty gross. But then, a few weeks later, B.J. told me that his three year old daughter loves the site and asks her daddy to go to the site whenever he's online. What? A three year old girl loves ratemypoo.com? Am I going insane?

Now desperate, I decided to run the site past one more filter, my cousin Skip. It was an easy moral decision to zap Skip with ratemypoo.com because he had been sending me links all afternoon whisking me off to sites related to flatulence. Skip's response was swift and concise.

"Now that's really disgusting. . . Ick," was Skip's reply, and I tend to agree with his assessment.

Now, I may be wrong here, and I may not be able to see the greater good being served by ratemypoo.com, but I stand by my opinion: namely, sitting and rating another person's poo is really disgusting.


Posted by Ryan at 03:26 PM | Comments (5)

Re-Geography Lesson This made me

Re-Geography Lesson

This made me brush up. Thankfully, only two countries gave me pause.

Posted by Ryan at 12:26 AM | Comments (0)

February 12, 2003

Dr. Suess On the Sauce

Dr. Suess On the Sauce Makes People Snarf

Ryan says: A martini. So sophisticated.

Jen says: That's what I'd drink if I drank. Something swank. I rhymed!

Ryan says: Kind of an alcoholic version of Dr. Suess.

Jen says: I will not drink green ale and coke! *hic*

Ryan says: "And the drinkers, they drank, they drank something swank, and their breath bubbled and burbled and really just stank."

Jen says: *laughs*

Jen says: yay, I knew Ryan would come up with something funny.

Ryan says: Just a matter of time.

Jen says: 'Tis.

Ryan says: "And as the drinkers got drunker, the more that they drank, so their thinkers couldn't thunker, no matter how much they thank."

Jen says: LOL...that's awesome.

Ryan says: I'm in my office just twittering away.

Jen says: You do NOT twitter.

Ryan says: Oh, I twitter, baby. I TWITTER!

Jen says: *snarfs*

Posted by Ryan at 02:07 PM | Comments (0)

I Never Ever Smelled a

I Never Ever Smelled a Smell that Smells Like That Smell Smells

A comment left by leblanc, from Intellectual Properties, prompted me to do considerable surfing into the other world of differing opinions, a necessary exercise from time to time. I won't go into great detail about my surfing, because quite frankly I can't remember all the links I clicked and all the pages I read. And, really, I can't remember what page, or what paragraph, or what sentence, or what word, sparked an odd thought in my mind: "I wonder what war smells like."

Smell is one of those weird senses that is everywhere but goes largely ignored, unless you find your nose hovering an inch over a steaming pile of dog poo. Maybe it's because smells are so ubiquitous, we just kind of file them away and focus on the more immediate senses like sight and touch. Granted, some smells are etched forever in our minds, like how my parents' house smells in the morning when they're home: fresh brewed coffee, the lingering odor of toast, that sort of thing.

But, every day odors just seem to escape us. Still, whenever I access my memory archives, I'm always struck by how I remember a certain smell from a certain time, even though, at the time, the smell was just commonplace. When I think back to my college days, I equate each place I lived with a certain smell. So, what must war smell like?

Obviously, it can't smell very good. But even beyond the stench of death, I imagine there are a host of other war-related odors that are truly disturbing. I think this is true particularly for airstrikes. For all their touted pinpoint precision and destructive capability, U.S. missiles and bombs just HAVE to be the most horrible smelling things imaginable. The stench of atomized concrete, the burning odor of unrestrained heat, the smell of escaped chemicals both from the weapon and from the target. It has to be horrendous.

I had a dream once, a strange dream even by my standards. I found myself trying to defuse a nuclear bomb, standing over it without a clue as to which wire I was supposed to snip, or even if snipping a wire was at all a good idea. Still, there it was, ticking down in front of me, so I had to do something. So I snipped a wire. I knew I did something wrong, because the bomb started making an insane buzzing noise, and suddenly everything started moving in slow motion. All I could think to do was dive to the ground and await the inevitable, all the while the buzzing grew louder in my ears. The bomb when off, and everything went white, but I distinctly remember the smell of burnt arm hair just before I woke up. It's strange that I remember that, because I can't recall smelling any smells from any of my other dreams.

The point of this post? I'm not sure there is one. Just me rambling on about smells, for whatever that's worth. What does war smell like?

Posted by Ryan at 10:56 AM | Comments (1)

February 11, 2003

And Yet Another In A

And Yet Another In A Long String of Bad Ideas

Sometimes, the capacity for human stupidity can dumbfound even the most strong-minded individuals. Here's an idea: load up a bus, Partridge Family style, and drive yourself and 50 or so likeminded folks into downtown Baghdad in an effort to deter war. Sound far fetched? Sadly, it isn't.

ANKARA (Reuters) - A group of around 50 Western anti-war activists received visas on Tuesday to enter Iraq where they plan to form "human shields" in an effort to deter a possible U.S.-led attack on the Arab state.

Somebody, somewhere, is guilty of some really poor planning. You'd think that, out of 50 or so people, one of them would have the common sense to see that a "human shield" initiative consisting of 50 people probably is the deterrant equivalent of toothpicks against a jackhammer. I'm thinking the leader of this gaggle of goons is going to have some explaining to do when they're round up by Iraqi secret police and placed before Saddam's propoganda machine. Seriously, what do they expect to accomplish once they're in Baghdad? Well, let's find out.

The volunteers said at an impromptu news conference in the Turkish capital they hoped their presence and the possibility of Western casualties would encourage U.S. political leaders and military planners to re-think any plans to bomb Baghdad for its alleged development of weapons of mass destruction.

Yeah, I'm sure military planners are going to lose a lot of sleep over 50 cultists who consciously decided to place themselves in the path of a cruise missile.

"I am an American human shield on this trip to Baghdad to try and stop this war," said volunteer John Rosse. "I ask American troops headed here...not to come, they have no business being here. They do not make good ambassadors. They are here to kill, murder, devastate the civilian population of Iraq. That is not an American thing to do."

Here that, troops? Better turn around. John Rosse said so. Still, he exposes the inherent fallacy that the U.S. is out to kill Iraqi civilians, as if our troops are trained to pick off anyone wearing a turban. I have to give anti-war protesters credit, however. They're remarkably adept at boiling down complex issues to standard black and white rants. No blood for oil, as if all the concern regarding weapons of mass destruction is somehow a ruse to hide a 100 percent oil-based agenda. We haven't found any evidence, as if a lack of evidence somehow exonerates Saddam. Let inspections work, as if a decade of inspections hasn't already been tried, and failed. Saddam will use weapons of mass destruction if we attack, which is interesting considering he's not supposed to have them in the first place.

For peace activists, it's somehow okay if Saddam has WMD, so long as he doesn't use them. Under that type of reasoning, men should be able to kidnap women, so long as they don't rape them. It's not as if Saddam is going to make nice soft fluffy pillows out of chemical and biological weapons and just sit on them. He intends to use them, whether on other countries or his own people, and neither is really that acceptable in my mind. Why is that so difficult for the John Rosses of the world to understand?

The group is traveling across Turkey in a convoy, including a red double-decker bus, that is expected to cross into Syria on Wednesday before entering Iraq. The volunteers left London late last month and headed overland across Europe. On arriving in Iraq, they plan to disperse to populated areas of Baghdad and other parts of the country.

I would like to see their reaction upon arriving in Baghdad, when they see firsthand how the Iraqi people live, and the perpetual fear they live under that the eyes and ears of Saddam will catch them saying or doing something of which he doesn't approve. I wonder what they'll think when they see their first Iraqi civilian arrested and carted off to prison, and very likely death. I wonder, after seeing all this, if they'll change their minds, if they'll suddenly realize that war may be the only way these people will ever actually be able to breathe freedom. I wonder if they'll realize that their noble "human shield" crusade will in the end hinder a military process that, in its bloodthirsty quest for oil, would also have liberated an oppressed society afraid to even speak.

I wonder if they'll be able to get out of Iraq to tell others what they saw without Saddam catching up to them first.

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

February 10, 2003

"Dude, Yer Goin' To Jail"

"Dude, Yer Goin' To Jail"

NEW YORK, Feb. 22 — Actor Benjamin Curtis, the well-known Dell computer Corp. pitchman "Steven" who says on television, "Dude, yer gettin' a Dell," was arrested for possessing marijuana in New York, officials said Monday.

Now, before passing judgement on poor Curtis, let's be honest: someone over there at MSNBC.com is also puffing the weed if they think today is Feb. 22. Oh, wait. . . I just hit the Refresh button, and they changed it to Feb. 10. That's right folks, Rambling Rhodes, reporting to you as it happens! But, I'm keeping it as Feb. 22, so their screw-up remains for all to see, well, at least on this site.

CURTIS, 22, WAS CHARGED with criminal possession of marijuana, a misdemeanor that carries a prison sentence of up to three months if he is convicted, a spokesman for the Manhattan district attorney's office said.

Seriously now, is there anybody out there who watched those commercials and didn't think, "Now that guy HAS to smoke tons upon tons of pot. He just HAS to." Anyone that panicky, with an insatiable jones for a Dell, simply can't be sober.

A spokesman for the Round Rock, Texas-based Dell said he was not familiar with the details and declined to speculate on future plans for the advertising campaign.

Oh, come on. This opens the door to some truly wacky Dell marketing. They can appeal to the pot smoking tech-heads of the world. "Dell, it's a bong of a computer."

Posted by Ryan at 04:17 PM | Comments (1)

World Shocked As Belgium Blocks

World Shocked As Belgium Blocks NATO Defense of Turkey
Leaders From Around the Globe Ask: Where's Belgium? What's Belgium? Is That a Country?

Brussels, Belgium (Rhodes Media Services) -- Member countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) were shocked to learn that France, Germany and Belgium blocked a U.S. request to draft a plan to defend Turkey in the event of war in Iraq, sending diplomats scurrying to find maps and encyclopedia information about Belgium.

"I can understand Germany and France being sniveling cowards," said U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. "They've been nothing but pansy milquetoasts when it comes to Iraq. But Belgium? Who the hell is Belgium? I have a hard time believing there's a country called Belgium. Still, I'll read up on this to find out more. I can't understand why anyone would want to be associated with France and Germany, but if there is such an additional country, it could only be named something stupid like Belgium."

Belgium, it turns out, is indeed a country, albeit a small one tucked between France and Germany. When reporters asked him if the country's convenient geography was a neat coincidence, Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel responded that Belgium had always been there, but it has just gone unnoticed.

"Seriously, Belgium is a country, and it has been a country for a very long time," said Michel to a throng of disbelieving reporters. "No, we were not recently carved from France and Germany so there can be an additional voice to back up their politcal push for appeasement of Saddam Hussein. Really, a major reason we sided with their view was so we could get some recognition on the world theater. Sure, it's embarrasing to be another wuss country, but we had to let the world know that Belgium does exist."

Following an emergency NATO meeting convened to deal with the tripartite block of a measure intended to draft a defense initiative to protect Turkey in the event of was in Iraq, reporters and world leaders alike delighted in using the word "Belgium" in conversation with one another. They all agreed that Belgium, though a wuss politically, was very fun to say.

"Belgium," said Nicolas Burns, U.S. ambassador to NATO. "Belgium, Belgium, Belgium. It's kind of like belch, only different. I guess that's appropriate."

Posted by Ryan at 02:16 PM | Comments (0)

15 Minutes of Fame. .

15 Minutes of Fame. . . Er, Almost

I'm a huge fan of James Lileks and his Daily Bleat. But today's entry just astounded me. ASTOUNDED ME! He wrote about my hometown of Harmony. He even included a picture of the local theater, although it was polluted with war protesters. But, hey, it was still really cool. It was like having my 15 minutes of fame, except totally not even close to that.

It's the sort of town that creeps up on you - a gas station, a new motel - then it states its case with a four-block downtown, hands you off to the other side of town, gives you a park or a church to note then falls back and watches you go.

James Lileks drank at the Time Out sports bar! I can't believe it! I drink at the Time Out sports bar pretty much any time I go home. Now, the next time I drink too much at the Time Out, I can slur to any one who cares that "Jamesh Lileksh drank here people! Show some reshpect!"

I remember it differently. It was a warm October afternoon. The ceremony took place at the high school, which was larger than you'd think a town this size would have - but of course its students also came from the surrounding farmland. You crossed a long green lawn spattered with fallen leaves, and entered 1958.

I think I'll take the time to more fully appreciate Harmony the next time I go home.

Posted by Ryan at 10:34 AM | Comments (1)

February 09, 2003

Early Morning Helplessness It was

Early Morning Helplessness

It was inevitable, I suppose. Since last weekend was wonderful, it only stood to reason that this one would be less than stellar.

I returned to my hometown on Friday night to check on my parents' house, ensuring that the pipes hadn't frozen and that everything was in order. It also gave me the chance to get my taxes to the local CPA. Good news: I only have to pay in $3,000 this year, as opposed to the $6,000 I was envisioning.

Saturday afternoon, however, I talked to Mel and she sounded strange. So, I decided to make the two hour drive to be with her. She seemed fine when I arrived, and we went out to eat at a Thai restaurant. Even as we ate, she started showing signs that things weren't quite right. She barely touched her food, and her eyes were taking on a reddish hue. She was sick, and whatever was making its way through her body was wasting no time taking control.

By 10 p.m., Mel was miserable, and her face was taking on the pale veneer that accompanied labored breathing and a whooping cough. Still, I wasn't too concerned. Colds are common this time of year in Minnesota. She fell asleep at 11 p.m., and I joined her a few minutes later.

Come 3 a.m., I awoke with a start, with Mel frantically pawing at my chest while making a gurgling sound that made my arm hair stand on end.

"I can't breathe," she croaked, and I saw lightning flash behind my eyes.

She couldn't breathe. What the fuck was going on? I violently grabbed her and brought her quickly to a seated position, with me seated behind her. She continued to gurgle and hack and wheeze and, worst of all, panic. I tried to tell her not to panic, that panicking would just make things worse, but it seemed hypocritical because I was almost blind with panic myself. I scanned for her phone, determined to call 911, but Mel just clung to me, refusing to let go. I couldn't leave her. I could just hold her to me and trust that things weren't as bad as I feared.

As her panic subsided, she started focusing more on breathing, and even as her tears dripped down on my arms, it was obvious that she was getting air, albeit in desperate gasps. Whatever had happened, it was going away. She sobbed softly as the panic subsided, nuzzling back into me, saying she was sorry for being sick, as if she had any control over that at all. I could only tell her to shush and to keep breathing deep.

After about half an hour, I put a stack of pillows against the wall and I laid back against it and had Mel lay back on me. It wasn't the most comfortable arrangement for me, but it ensured that Mel would remain upright, so the peace of mind was all the comfort I needed. She slept deeply for about 45 minutes like that, with me sleeping fitfully, if at all. I was mostly in an exhausted state of vigilance. Finally, with the frightful gurgling replaced by regular breathing, Mel slowly slipped down from my chest and slept soundly until the sun rose.

At 8 a.m., Mel was up and in the bathroom, vomiting for all she was worth, and I paced in the kitchen, feeling just as helpless as I had just a few hours earlier. She emerged exhausted, as is often the case after a 10 minute puke-fest. She moaned that she had thrown up in the sink and clogged it. I told her not to worry about it and to go back to bed. We slept into the afternoon, with Mel suffering a noticeable temperature and an inability to keep water down. Still, she was undeniably getting better, her body battling whatever strange soup of pathogens commandeering her body.

I got up for good at about 1:15 p.m., and I unclogged her sink with a knife, a most unpleasant task. I then did the dishes, checking up on the sleeping patient every so often. The worst was over. Now was the recovery project. Come 3 p.m., I went in and lay down next to Mel. She told me to get back on the road before it started getting dark, and she assured me that she was feeling better. I was dubious, so I stayed with her for another half hour before she insisted, once again, that I get going. The only thing she asked of me was that I not get sick. Gotta love her.

I kissed her good-bye at 4 p.m., and I stopped in Cannon Falls about 45 minutes later, ridden with guilt that I wasn't with her. I was about to start driving back to her, when I was reminded that, when Mel insists on something, like me going home, it was best not to second guess her. So, I continued on my way home.

I called her at 8 p.m., and she sounded better, though still exhausted. I told her that I almost turned back, and she sternly announced, with as much authority as she could muster in her beleagured condition, that it was a good thing I didn't, or she would have been very mad at me. Gotta love her.

I went for a five mile run tonight, taking advantage of what is likely my last few hours of being healthy. There's only a slim chance I'm going to avoid Mel's fate, and I wanted to enjoy being able to breathe deep while I still could. Now the countdown begins. How long before I fall ill? Any one want to place a bet?

Posted by Ryan at 08:48 PM | Comments (0)

February 07, 2003

Terror Alert System Not Working

Terror Alert System Not Working
Government Officials Labor To Make System More Terrifying to Americans

WASHINGTON D.C. (Rhodes Media Services) -- The American people showed a remarkable lack of concern following the Bush administration's elevation of the nation's terror alert to "orange" Friday afternoon, prompting many within the administration to wonder if enough is being done to adequately terrify U.S. citizens.

An apparently unconcerned American public went about their daily routines, largely unaffected by the news that America was on orange alert, the second highest level that calls for, among other things, additional precautions at public events. Still, citizens were seen milling around in crowded malls and walking around outside, apparently unaware that their lives were in desperate peril.

"Obviously, we're not doing a very good job at scaring the crap out of people, and I think we need to work on that," said Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. "Initially, I thought the color orange was pretty spooky all by itself, kind of like a pumpkin, but I was apparently mistaken. It takes quite a bit to get Americans scared out of their minds, and we've got some ideas on how we can make the system a bowel-emptying adrenaline rush."

Among the ideas being explored, according to Ridge, is creating mascots for each terror alert level, not unlike the Smokey The Bear forest fire mascot. For example, the orange level mascot would be Anthrax Andy, an eight foot kangaroo in a bio suit, and red would be represented by Smallpox Samantha, a nine foot tall squirrel covered in seaping pustules. Additionally, each level will have its own unique theme music, consisting of 80 percent pipe organ.

"Now that's some scary shit," said Ridge. "When Americans see Anthrax Andy on television, and they hear eerie organ music in the background, I guarantee they'll flip out."

Posted by Ryan at 01:08 PM | Comments (0)

You've Got Mail First and

You've Got Mail

First and foremost, I have to get this off my chest. "You've got mail" is grammatically incorrect. If you remove the conjunction, it reads, "You have got mail." That's redundant, to say nothing of sloppy. Then again, I don't suppose AOL is going to pony up the dough to have that cheerful gentleman come back into the recording studio just to say, "You have mail." They should though.

I don't have AOL. I have Hotmail, otherwise known as "Annoying Mail." To have a Hotmail account is to take a filthy lukewarm bath in spam. I get over 10 spam mails each day, and it's just become routine for me to delete messages from "Wet Yvette." I'm sorry to hear about Yvette's liquid status, but that's the extent of my concern. Ah, but I'm not going to talk about spam mail. I've already analyzed that topic to death, and I'm still getting spammed, so it's pointless to bitch.

My gripe today is about forwards, the chain letters of the world wide web. I think it's safe to say that I've seen every forward ever forwarded, albeit in slightly tweaked form, 20 times each. I swear, for about a month about two years ago, I got the same "Ugly American" forward sent to me 30 times. It was attributed to everyone from George Carlin to the local television repairman.

And, although it totally cracked me up the first time, I think I got that "Every Time You Masturbate, God Kills a Kitten" thing about 80 times. By the eighth time, however, I had lost all sympathy for that cat. I wanted those creatures to catch that cat and violate it in whatever way big brown cushy monsters violate cats.

The point is, I'm tired of forwards. I don't look at forwards any more. I had to tell my girlfriend to stop sending me forwards or I'd break up with her, and I was only partially kidding.

I don't want to read another top ten list of anything. I don't want to read some piece of pseudo-inspirational tripe that has to be sent to ten other people immediately or my head will shrivel like a raisin and my penis will fall off. I don't want to read another piece of poorly written poetry about the horrors of drinking and driving. I know that drinking and driving is bad. I don't need a poem about some teenager named "Kathy" who hurtled through a windshield to make me understand that drinking and driving is bad. And I'm NOT going to send it on to 20 other people. Kathy's horrible tale dies in my inbox. Sorry Kathy. Get well soon.

Now, I understand that some people enjoy getting forwards, and they can't wait to wade through their inboxes and read through every single one of those irritating things, but I am not one of those people. I guess I would rather read original thoughts from friends and family, rather than regurgitated crap that has circled the globe a thousand times and has become so familiar, people in Tanzania can recite it verbatim.

I view forwards as tantamount to the boring relative who keeps telling the same stories over, and over, and over again. Forwards, I think, are a sort of friendship life support system for friendships that are hanging by a thread. Sure, you haven't talked to "Tony" in over three years, but you send him forwards all the time, so everything is good. In actuality, Tony is probably a lot like me, deleting the damned things without so much as a second glance. So, for the sake of world sanity, please stop sending forwards.

And, please, send this on to 20 people, or your hair will turn white and you'll grow breasts from your armpits and the only television station that comes in at your house will be the one featuring the Anna Nicole Show on a 24 hour loop.

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

February 06, 2003

The Road To War Last

The Road To War

Last night, I received an e-mail from a blog lurker who tried to tell me that impending war in Iraq was a moral evil, and that I was a Bush supporter who believes everything the government says. Now, I don't get many e-mails about my blog (most people use the comment engine if they have something to say), so I sat and stewed on this one for awhile.

Here's the deal: I haven't always been a supporter of the war, and I'm not a Bush supporter, and I certainly don't believe everything the government says. I voted against Bush in 2000, and I'll likely vote against him in '04. I don't think his tax cuts are doing any good, and I think he's too cozy with the wealthy and big business. His record thus far on the economy has been abysmal, despite all his Hoover-esque cheerleading. So no, I'm not a Bush supporter.

And I wasn't always a war supporter. Initially, when Bush started his push for war, I took the moral high ground and tried to defend my position. Unfortunately, a no war in Iraq stance is an indefensible position. Sure, it sounds great, to make peace, not war, but for war opponents, the argument stops there. They'll say that there has to be a peaceful alternative, but then they clam up and don't offer any such alternatives. Let the inspection process work, they'll say, but the inspection process has been in place for over a decade, and it has failed, miserably.

And yes, I'm fully aware that civilians die during wars, but the simple fact is that civilians die under Saddam's boot heel every day in Iraq. Is it somehow more morally acceptable to allow regimes to kill and terrorize their own? So long as it's not the U.S. doing the killing, that's fine? We didn't allow Milosevic to continue his ethnic cleansing, and it took missiles and bombs to stop him, and it was the right thing to do, and so is this.

I really don't care if there is or isn't a terrorist link to Iraq. That doesn't matter to me. As far as I'm concerned, Saddam Hussein is a terrorist in his own right. It's astounding to me that so many people don't seem to understand the danger this man poses if he has even one vial of anthrax. This is not a peaceful man we're talking about. This is a man who has known nothing but war throughout his reign. War with Iran. War with Kuwait. War with the world. And peace activists think Saddam can be reasoned with? Good God, people, get a clue. He came to power through ruthlessness and killing, and those have been his hallmarks ever since.

Saddam is working to produce chemical and biological, and possibly nuclear, weapons. And, no, the inspectors haven't found them, because, if you have a clandestine weapons operation going on in your country, you're going to do your damned best to keep any and all evidence carefully hidden. And that's exactly what he's doing. Oh, and I can assure you he's not developing toxins to inject into his wrinkles to make them go away. He wants the weapons so he can have a dangerous bargaining chip at his disposal. Seriously, once he has a nuclear weapon, or a sufficient supply of biological and chemical agents, everything else is academic. He wants them so he can use them. He tried the traditional warfare thing and got waxed. Now he's trying something else. It's all he knows, and he has to be disposed of.

Then there's the argument that removing Saddam will destabilize the Middle East. Something I've noticed lately is that the Middle East is about the most unstable theater on earth. What does it say when the most stable thing in the Middle East is Saddam Hussein? Good God. If that's stability, I'll pass. I won't deny that a power struggle will likely ensue once Saddam's oppression machine is dismantled. The Kurds, the Shiites and the Sunni are all going to want a share of the power, and they may fight to get it, but at least they won't be tinkering in the desert trying to figure out how to lob a smallpox Scud into Tel Aviv.

But, oh, that's right, this is a war for oil isn't it? Of course oil is a factor, but it's by far the smallest component of this impending conflict. Yes, booting Saddam will include the added benefit of having access to the world's second largest oil reserves, but on their way to the oil fields, U.S. soldiers will take the time to free thousands of dissident Iraqi prisoners who were previously doomed to torture and death. I'm sure they won't give a flip one way or the other if their freedom came partially due to oil. I imagine they'll just be glad to be alive. And free.

And, finally, we have those who demand U.N. backing before going to war. I'll tell you what, after watching the U.N. bicker and resolve, and resolve, and resolve to make resolutions to resolve resolutions resolving their intent to resolve a resolution of force against Iraq, I'm not entirely sure the U.N. is a viable body for determining world order, and I'll tell you why. Outside of the U.N. theater, countries make deals with other countries, just as France has financial interests in Iraq. So, now you have a tangled web of debts owed between countries that are in danger of being nullified in the event of a regime change. So, when it comes to war, the U.N. is hamstrung by countries that have a vested interest in not making war. France isn't threatening a veto because it's the humanitarian thing to do. They're threatening a veto because they want Iraq to pay up first. So no, I don't view U.N. backing as an imperative precondition for war in Iraq.

To the person who dropped me the e-mail last night, I hope this explains my position a little better. If not, I guess I really don't care.

Posted by Ryan at 11:09 AM | Comments (0)

February 05, 2003

Irrefutable Evidence Refuted Powell To

Irrefutable Evidence Refuted
Powell To War Critics: "Are You fucking Blind?!"

NEW YORK (Rhodes Media Services) -- Despite an exhaustive arsenal of declassified evidence presented by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell detailing Iraqi non-compliance with U.N. Resolution 1441, including detailed satellite imagery and damning audiotapes, opponents of a U.S.-led war on Iraq continued their push for ongoing weapons inspections.

"I don't know what to do any more," said an exasperated Powell. "I mean, I can clearly see that the Iraqis are moving and hiding weapons they're not supposed to have in the first place. And here, right here, if I push play, I can hear Iraqi officials talking about hiding weapons they're not supposed to have. It's all so painfully obvious. And yet, they want more inspections?"

Then, unexpectedly, Powell turned to the U.N. Security Council and yelled, "Are you fucking blind?!"

France and Germany, two of the most outspoken opponents of an Iraq confrontation, looked past the new evidence, and Powell's outbust, and renewed their push towards additional inspections.

"Sure, the evidence is disturbing," said French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin. "But just because the U.S. has caught Iraq red-handed working to conceal weapons, there's no reason to be hasty. I'm certain that, if we let the inspectors just do their work, they'll accidentally stumble across Saddam's meticulously hidden weapons. I mean, the guy has to screw up sometime. Right?"

Not surprisingly, Iraq's U.N. representative, Mohammed al-Douri, claimed the new evidence was fabricated, and he assured the U.N. that Saddam Hussein was not hiding weapons.

"This is just outrageous," said al-Douri. "Saddam is a peaceful, fun-loving, wonderful leader. Right now, this very minute, he has teams of armed men watching over my family, making sure no harm comes to them. He is not the kind of man who works to produce weapons of mass destruction, and he most certainly doesn't hide them. Sure, we may load them up on trucks and drive them around where inspectors can't find them, but . . .oh, wait. I mean, if we had such weapons. Which we don't. I love Saddam!"

Powell sat alone for several minutes after the U.N. deliberation, going over and over the presentation he had given, wondering if he may have missed something that would have prompted the critics to, in his words, "get a fucking clue."

"More inspections?" said Powell. "More fucking inspections? If it were up to the French and the Germans, they'd call for years and years of inspections. Oh, wait, we've already had years and years of inspections. I just can't fucking believe this."


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July 2003. June 2003. May 2003. April 2003. March 2003. February 2003. January 2003. December 2002. November 2002. October 2002. September 2002. August 2002. July 2002. June 2002. May 2002. April 2002. February 2002. November 2007. October 2007. September 2007. August 2007. July 2007. June 2007. May 2007. April 2007. March 2007. February 2007. January 2007. December 2006. November 2006. October 2006. September 2006. August 2006. July 2006. June 2006. May 2006. April 2006. March 2006. February 2006. January 2006. December 2005. November 2005. October 2005. September 2005. August 2005. July 2005. June 2005. May 2005. April 2005. March 2005. February 2005. January 2005. December 2004. November 2004. October 2004. September 2004. August 2004. July 2004. June 2004. May 2004. April 2004. March 2004. February 2004. January 2004. December 2003. November 2003. October 2003. September 2003. August 2003. July 2003. June 2003. May 2003. April 2003. March 2003. February 2003. January 2003. 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June 2002. May 2002. April 2002. February 2002. November 2007. October 2007. September 2007. August 2007. July 2007. June 2007. May 2007. April 2007. March 2007. February 2007. January 2007. December 2006. November 2006. October 2006. September 2006. August 2006. July 2006. June 2006. May 2006. April 2006. March 2006. February 2006. January 2006. December 2005. November 2005. October 2005. September 2005. August 2005. July 2005. June 2005. May 2005. April 2005. March 2005. February 2005. January 2005. December 2004. November 2004. October 2004. September 2004. August 2004. July 2004. June 2004. May 2004. April 2004. March 2004. February 2004. January 2004. December 2003. Posted by Ryan at 02:49 PM | Comments (0)

February 04, 2003

Michael Jackson Disposal Method Announced

Michael Jackson Disposal Method Announced
Controversial Approach Deemed Grisly, But Well Worth It

LONDON (Rhodes Media Services) -- In an astonishing announcement by Michael Jackson, the King of Pop revealed a method by which the world can rid itself of the bizarre celebrity that is The Gloved One.

"If there were no children on this earth, if someone announced all kids were dead, I would jump off the balcony immediately." said Jackson in an interview with a British documentary maker.

The surprising admission sent ripples of excitement throughout the world as people from all countries weighed the pros and cons inherent in such a drastic Jackson removal method.

"I really don't know what to think," said Jose Nicaragua, 48, of Nicaragua. "I mean, sure, a world without children, and all the child killing that would be required, would be traumatic and probably pretty nasty. But, really, if that's what it takes to get Michael Jackson to jump off a balcony, I think it's a sacrifice the world should consider."

Although the logistics involved in ridding the world of children are indeed daunting, particularly the extermination of Jackson's own three offspring, experts say the specter of living on the same planet with Michael Jackson for years to come is exponentially more difficult and traumatic to imagine.

"Children, or Michael Jackson? Children, or Michael Jackson? Boy, that's a toughy," said Jack McGuire, 37, of San Francisco. "Are we talking just the young children, like five years and younger, or all children? This really requires some serious thought."

Others pointed out that child killing maybe wasn't even required.

"Well, Jackson did say that it only required that somebody 'announce' that all children are dead," said Emily Masters, 24, of Rhode Island. "That's a major loophole there. Surely we can find someone who can simply announce that all children are dead. Hell, I'll do it. No more Michael Jackson? Man, I'd announce it for a year with a payoff like that."

Not to be confused with the Anna Nicole Smith disposal method. liberal.com/hcpgr/anna_nicole_smith_curvy.jpg">Anna Nicole Smith. Anna Nicole Smith. Anna Nicole Smith. Anna Nicole Smith. Anna Nicole Smith. Anna Nicole Smith. Anna Nicole Smith. Anna Nicole Smith. Anna Nicole Smith.

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

Writer's Block Can Get Me

Writer's Block Can Get Me So Drunk Sometimes

Last night, I was determined to write my weekly newspaper column, even though I had no idea what the hell I was going to write about. Sometimes, a good humorous angle is a MSNBC headline away, and sometimes it's simply a matter of mining my own experiences for a funny anecdote. Other times, however, coming up with a topic is the literary equivalent of pulling an elephant's tooth. Last night was such a tooth-pulling ordeal.

I started out dabbling in three different ideas, none of them much good. I just couln't conjure anything funny about anything. So, I turned to the liquor cabinet, thinking I could find creativity in a mixture of Philips vodka and 7-Up. As is often the case when I turn to liquid inspiration, I found myself doing everything except writing, which is one reason why I don't drink while writing very often.

For example, I decided that last night would be a good time to familiarize myself with my new computer and download updates for my assorted hardware components. A funny thing about downloading software while drinking: you end up doing more damage than you think is possible. I downloaded updates for my optical mouse, only to discover my mouse refused to work at all. This vexed me to no end, so I poured myself another concoction. I ended up plugging my mouse into a USB port rather than its standard mouse outlet. The setup looks pretty bad, and the cord now gets in my way, but at least my mouse works.

With my mouse working, I tried to focus once again on writing, but by that time I had enough alcohol swimming in my system that I thought everything I wrote was the funniest shit ever, and that's never a good sign. I revisited my work this morning and I wanted to tear my eyes out, refusing to believe that I was capable of such crap. I won't go into great detail here, but at one point I used the word "booger" and in parantheses I had written, in all caps, "THAT'S FUNNY!" *groan*

Thankfully, I gave up on writing at about 11 p.m. and started playing Jedi Outcast. You want funny? Steer a guy with three vodka 7s in his system toward a computer game consisting of labyrinthine puzzles. I think I spent the better part of an hour going around in a circle, getting more and more pissed, and piss drunk, as I went.

Finally, my body directed me to bed at 12:30 a.m., and I think I was asleep in less than a minute. Levels completed on Jedi Outcast? None. Stupid stuff I downloaded to make my computer run better but probably just screwed up? Afraid to look. Total amount of quality writing completed? None.

I'm thinking the liquor cabinet will now be ignored for many, many moons.

Posted by Ryan at 12:37 PM | Comments (1)

February 03, 2003

Lost In The Translation It's

Lost In The Translation

It's a considerable trick to view Arabic Web pages in English. Give the huge amount of media play the Qatar-based al Jazeera television network gets, I was curious to see if they had a Web page. They do, but it's entirely in Arabic, and I was surprised at how surprised I was to learn this. Duh, Ryan. Duh.

But, I was determined to view the stupid page in English, so I sought a translation engine, which works fairly well, I suppose, although I guess it could be totally lying to me. I mean, really, I have no idea if it's genuinely translating anything or just giving me a whole bunch of false crap. Regardless, I'm taking the translation as legitimate.

Topping the al Jazeera headlines today is Russian stance toward Iraq retreated. ElBaradei: World's patience about to run out on Iraq

Russian stance retreated? I can see that from the French, maybe, but certainly not the Russians. Obviously, this is simply a matter of translation, but it gets oh so much better.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director general Mohamed ElBaradei said the would began losing patience toward Iraq, and Baghdad has to present more cooperation with the UN weapons inspectors.

And added, the all agrees that Iraq has to show more cooperation, indicating that he and Hans Blix, chief of United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, would convey this message to Iraqis at their arrival the Iraqi capital next Saturday. ElBaradei added "We expect a relief in chemical and biological weapons and missiles. We may not accomplish the mission completely early next week, but we hope to achieve a relief"

Got that? Clear as mud? Good. I think it would be fun to try going through my day talking with people as if I were translating myself from Arabic. "Good morning," would become, "The day's beginning, the time when sun starts on horizon, is a decent one."

On his part, British Prime Minister Tony Blair confirmed that the proofs indicating that Iraq falls behind cooperating with the UN weapons inspectors are "no smoking", and said the operation of disarming the Iraqi nontraditional weapons hits its final stage.

The proofs are no smoking? Ooooookaaaayyy. I like the line, "nontraditional weapons." And here we've been foolishly calling them "weapons of mass destruction." They're not weapons of mass destruction, they're simply non-traditional. They eschew the traditional killing power of other weapons.

British Prime Minister considered that Iraq failed in cooperating completely with the inspectors, "and was and still in a material breach". According to Blair, Baghdad did not answer the questions on the destiny of thousands of weapons and missile warheads that were supposedly declared, in addition to secret documents, which were discovered at an Iraqi scientist's home.

The destiny of weapons and missile warheads? I know, I know. This is all just a silly case of poor translation, but that still strikes me as damned funny. I keep thinking about the movie "Back to the Future" when Marty's dad, as a teenager, tries to woo his future wife with the line, "I am your density." Was he speaking Arabic?

Maybe someday I'll get to reading the riveting al Jazeera article: Blair and Bush Discussed the Second Resolution Form, the War Plan Details They're not known for crisp, concise headlines over there at al Jazeera.

Posted by Ryan at 05:11 PM | Comments (6)

The Columbia Astronauts I spent

The Columbia Astronauts

I spent a lot of time yesterday thinking about the Columbia astronauts and their ultimate sacrifice. I thought about them as I surfed the Web. I thought about them as I flipped mindlessly through the channels. And I thought about them as I went running in the cool waning Minnesota daylight.

I didn't know the astronauts; I never met any of them. Still, I think I can postulate a bit about who they were even without actually having shaken their hands or dined with them.

They were brave.

I know, I know. Of course they were brave. But, really, that word, brave, really doesn't do them justice. Neither does "courageous." There's really no word to aptly describe someone who totally and completely puts their trust into the engineers, and scientists, and the janitors that sweep the ground control floor, to catapult them into space and bring them safely down again. They didn't think of themselves as special. They knew that anything they accomplished would be the collective result of countless individuals working together on a common mission. Imagine if your daily commute required you to strap yourself atop tons upon tons of solid rocket fuel kept in check by nothing more than human ingenuity. Imagine that, once you arrived at work, you'd be expected to ignore the fact that, outside, beyond not much more than a dime width of metal, was the most inhospitable environment known to man. That's not bravery. That's not courage. That's just incredible.

They were dreamers.

These were people who looked up at the stars and said nothing less than, "I want that." They looked at the moon, not as a nightly curiousity, but as a destination. They epitomized the human quest for exploration. As children, they were no doubt the toddlers who strayed beyond their parents' vision with maddening regularity, simply because they wanted to go a little further than mom and dad would allow. These were people who questioned boundaries. These were people who didn't understand the concept of the word "impossible."

They were ambassadors.

Space doesn't have borders. It doesn't have sanctions. It doesn't have elected officials. Space is inhosbitable, yes, but on the other extreme it's arguably the most beautiful and serene frontier within human grasp, and we send people to learn about it, and to experience it. Granted, others have gone before them, and others will follow, but the lost seven Columbia astronauts were unique ambassadors to space in their own right. They all brought something genuinely human to a realm that has only known humanity for less than half a century. I imagine it's a tough diplomatic assignment to shake hands with infinity.

They were human beings.

A lot has been made out of the fact that one of the seven astronauts was an Israeli, Ilan Ramon, the first ever from his nation to leave earth's embrace. But, really, like Yuri Gagarin and Allen Shepherd before him, I imagine there was a time during his mission, perhaps during take-off, perhaps during descent, that his nationality was eclipsed by his humanity, a flashing moment of epiphany when he realized just how human he was. All astronauts who make it to outer space must look out the window at earth spinning below and wonder at the experience of being human. Not American. Not Israeli. Not Indian. But human. Purely human, with all the dreams and aspirations and fears and frailty that come with being human. For that, even despite their loss, I envy them.

And I mourn them.

Posted by Ryan at 11:30 AM | Comments (1)

February 02, 2003

A Weekend for Common People

A Weekend for Common People

This weekend, I enjoyed what Melissa called "Ryan's Weekend." I'm not sure what prompted the special attention, and I'm not going to question it. Suffice it to say, it involved a whole bunch of me getting to do whatever I wanted and, if you know me at all, you've already guessed that my weekend consisted of a whole bunch of sleep.

It's funny, but Mel and I joke all the time that our relationship can be summed up as "eating, sex, and sleep," a summation that belies a relationsnip that really entails a lot more, even though, yes, a considerable amount of our time together is spent doing one of the three. I should note here that I am in no way complaining.

Some of the other things we did this weekend included taking in the snow sculptures at the St. Paul Winter Park Snow Carnival. Unfortunately, a few days of above freezing temperatures turned the field of snow sculptures into a vast gallery of Venus Di Milo derivatives. Some of the sturdier specimens retained their shape, although the obligatory Sponge Bob Square Pants sculpture hadn't weathered the weather all that well.

Strangely, the carnival included a snow shoe walking field, which seemed ridiculous considering the snow this year, at its deepest point, is maybe two inches. Still, people were happily strapping on snow shoes and trudging across snow that barely concealed the grass beneath. Another unfortunate aside, Mel and I didn't bring much money along, and we were disheartened to discover that my beloved mini doughnuts cost $3 a bag, and we only had $2 between us. *sigh*

Saturday night, Mel treated me to an entertaining bit of theater at the Children's Theater. We were both quick to note that we were the only couple present without children, a fact we readily agreed was in no way a problem, and we gave each other a quick high five. I have to admit, I had my reservations about attending the Children's Theater performance of Once Upon a Forest, but I was hooked, absolutely hooked, within the first five minutes. There I was, a 27 year old male, enthralled by a performance geared toward children. For children, it had to be completely magical. If you live in the Twin Cities, go see this. I can't pimp it enough. Wonderful.

Just prior to entering the theater, Mel decided to make a bathroom run, and she came back shaking her head. Apparently, as she was waiting in line, she overheard a gaggle of well-to-do mothers talking about a new Target store that went up somewhere in the cities. One of the mothers quipped, "Target: fashion for common people," and the other women twittered and giggled and no doubt raised a tea cup later that evening with their pinkies raised.

Don't get me wrong. One of my great aspiration in life is to become so incredibly filthy rich, I'll never have to work again, and that I'll have a huge house that comes complete with a bed that can travel from the bedroom to the kitchen on special tracks. But, I'll tell you what, I sincerely hope I am strong enough to remember, each and every day, that wealth in no way makes me somehow better than someone else. I already have an ego that does that for me.

Okay, in all seriousness, those "hoighty toighty" folks, as Melissa calls them, are so sickening. They believe that, since they have money and some semblance of social standing, they stand head and shoulders over the people who serve them their five star dinners. I'd like to beat them over the head and torso with a Plebian hammer.

Speaking of five star dinners, Mel and I took a tour of downtown Minneapolis after the show and, despite its intimidating exterior, took a chance at a cajun restaurant called Copelands. Oh. My. God. This food was unbelievable, and unbelievably reasonable in price. It was a little packed (this place puts chairs and tables in every possible spot of barren floor), but the service was good and I still drool like Pavlov's dog whenever I think of the dish I had but can't remember the name of.

So, "Ryan's Weekend" was a smashing success.

And then I came home and heard about the Shuttle Columbia, and my mood has been subdued ever since. What a tragedy. As if we needed another one.

Posted by Ryan at 08:35 PM | Comments (1)

A Silent Prayer May God

A Silent Prayer

May God bless the crew and families of the lost Shuttle Columbia.

Posted by Ryan at 04:19 PM | Comments (0)
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