May 30, 2003

Credit Cards and Cheddar Five

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.

Cheddar Five
All the Excitement Of The Friday Five, Only Much More Boring (If That's Even Possible)

1. When you go to the bathroom in the middle of the night do you leave the seat up or down when you're done?
A tricky question, and one that requires some exploration. If my girlfriend is staying over I try to put it down, just to be polite, but sometimes I forget that it's down and I end up peeing on the seat, which is really sort of gross. Otherwise, I leave it up, unless I haven't cleaned it in awhile and the rim is polluted with urine droplets and pubes, in which case I put the seat down to hide the evidence.

2. When was the last time you forgot to put the cap on the toothpaste and how did it make you feel when you remembered it was left off?
Again, this is a humdinger of a question. I rarely leave the cap off, and I can't remember the last time I did so. I do, however, remember dropping the cap once and when I retrieved it from the floor, there were a couple of pubes stuck to it (probably migrated from the toilet seat). This made me deeply sad, and I ended up throwing the cap away, stealing the cap off my roommate's toothpaste, and weaving a complex web of lies about what happened to my roommate's toothpaste cap. He still doesn't trust me to this day.

3. How many kinds of rice do you have in your cupboards?
I don't have any rice in my cupboards, because I haven't bought groceries in over a year. I do have some leftover Chinese food in the fridge that has some rice mixed in with it.

4. Is white rice inherently superior to brown rice?
Absolutely. However, there are some brands of white rice, particularly Japanese sticky rice, that is head and shoulders above the inferior Minute Rice and Rice-a-Roni white rice wannabes. It's been awhile since I've eaten a quality brown rice, although I did enjoy a nice Jasmine rice awhile back that was particularly enjoyable, primarily because I kept thinking about Jasmine from Alladin. For a cartoon chick, she's fucking hot.

5. If you were a Japanese citrus fruit, which one would you be?
Gotta go with the Nashi on this one. It's kind of like an apple, and kind of like a pear, but I'm hear to tell you, buddy, it's neither an apple or a pear. It's tasterific, and you can't buy a nashi here in America because they're banned? Why? Because the fruit powers that be here in the U.S. of A. have deemed the nashi a threat to the traditional apple and pear markets. The nashi would crush those inferior fruits like Godzilla stepping on a bridge. Damn, I really love nashis.

6. (Hey, this is number six? What the fuck? Oh well, so it's a Cheddar Six) When was the last time you sneezed without covering your mouth?
Just today, in fact. I stepped out of my car this morning, stared indirectly at the sun briefly, and let fly with two photic sneezes, both uncovered. Twas a grand spray of saliva and mucous, and I look forward to doing it again after work.

Posted by Ryan at 11:48 AM | Comments (0)

May 29, 2003

City Driving Made Easy: The

City Driving Made Easy: The Hard Way

Let me just set the record straight right up front: I'm terrible at driving in cities. Tall buildings disorient me, street signs just confuse me, and my sense of direction would have sunk Columbus as soon as he lost sight of Spain.

With that in mind, it was no big surprise when, Tuesday night following a Twins game, I spent the next hour or so hopelessly meandering Minneapolis side streets. At one point, I was so lost in the suburbs, I almost said "to heck with it" and bought a house.

10:10 p.m. -- I leave the Metrodome parking lot. I take a left, because that's what every other car seems to be doing. And every other driver simply can't be wrong. Can they?

10:12 p.m. -- Every other driver is dead wrong. Traffic is so bad, you'd think the terror alert level was raised to red and everyone is trying to get out of town. The problem is complicated by a small fender bender that translates into a traffic standstill.

10:16 p.m. -- I take the next available right, and I immediately know I made a mistake because mine is the only vehicle on the street. Oh well, at least I'm out of traffic. I may not know where I'm going, but at least I'll get there faster.

10:25 p.m. -- Okay, this isn't funny any more. Where the heck am I? I can either continue on this unknown road, or I can take a right or left onto another unknown road. I take a left onto an unknown road.

10:32 p.m. -- I spy a four lane highway, with real on-ramps and everything! I take it without question, because it simply can't be any worse than the suburban side streets I've been on for the past 20 minutes.

10:36 p.m. -- Well, this can't be right. I don't recognize ANYTHING. Out of curiosity, I flip on the compass that is part of my rearview mirror. It says I'm going North. That's not good. I want to be going South, and a little bit East.

10:40 p.m. -- I take an off-ramp and promptly find myself once again buried in the burbs. I aim my vehicle down a street in the hopes I find something positive.

10:48 p.m. -- I don't find anything positive. I pull into a Super America station to buy a map of the Twin Cities. I also buy two lottery tickets and a Diet Pepsi. I open the map and am confronted by writing so small it can only be read by a scanning electron microscope. The Palestinian/Israeli "roadmap" to peace isn't this complicated.

10:55 p.m. -- After reading the map and kinda', sorta', almost being certain I know where I am on it, I resume my journey. I'm on Portland Ave., or so I think.

11:12 p.m. -- How come the Portland Ave. I'm driving on seems so much longer than the Portland Ave. shown on my map? I may have to swallow my pride and ask *gasp* directions.

11:17 p.m. -- Highlight of the evening. I spy a woman standing on a street corner. I pull up alongside her to ask directions and quickly come to the conclusion that she may, in fact, be a prostitute. I reach this conclusion due to her provocative dress, the fact it's 11:17 p.m., she's on a corner, and she seems unsually pleased to see a smoking hot specimen of male hunkiness pull up in a 96' Cadillac Eldorado.

11:18 p.m. -- The presumed prostitute tells me, in a raspy voice that indicates a two carton a day smoker, that I'm on the wrong Portland Ave. "Honey," she says, and the word makes me cringe, "I think you want Portland Avenue South." I thank her, and she smiles at me in such a way that makes me want to yell "Thank You" to every dentist on the face of the planet.

11:32 p.m. -- I finally locate a highway I'm familiar with and check my compass to ensure that I am, indeed, heading South. After over an hour of perusing Mineapolis suburbs, I'm exasperated and I don't even care that I'm on a road that will take me twice as long as usual to get home.

12:45 a.m. -- I return triumphantly to my Rochester home, dangerously low on gas and exhausted to the point of coma. But, at least I got a new map out of the deal.

Posted by Ryan at 12:08 PM | Comments (0)

May 27, 2003

Terrorists. . . I Hate

Terrorists. . . I Hate These Guys

Sunday evening, as I clicked through the channels, nursing a slight sunburn following 27 holes of golf, I landed on CNN. The topic centered around whether we are losing the war on terrorism. My gut instinct was to yelp an emphatic "NO!" and try to find a rerun of Star Trek: The Next Generation. But, I lingered just so I could get the gist of what they were saying.

They weren't saying anything new, really. Pretty much, in light of the bombings in Saudi Arabia and Morocco, and the renewed suicide attacks in Israel, some "experts" are convinced that it's proof the war on terror is a losing one. Puh-lease. If anything, those bombings have all the earmarks of an organization teetering on desperation. If you opt to bomb the very holy land you profess your religious devotion to, indications are high that you don't have a lot of wiggle room. If it's true that the Saudi royal family is running a pipeline of finances to al Queda, the Saudi attacks were a blatant display of biting the hand that feeds them.

Even more damning for terrorist groups has been the reaction from the Arab street regarding attacks on Islamic soil. Regarding terrorism, the Arab street opinion has gone something like this: "If they want to bomb the Cole, fine. If they want to bomb U.S. embassies, okay. If they want to bomb busy markets in Israel, great. If they want to fly into American buildings, that's pretty amazing."

But, as soon as terrorists start attacking Muslim lands, such as Morocco and Saudi Arabia itself, killing their own and not apparently giving a shit (as usual), you get stuff like this:

Tens of thousands of demonstrators chanting "no to terrorism" thronged the streets of Casablanca today, nine days after 43 people were killed in coordinated suicide attacks in the city.

and this:

"The bombers were a group of Muslim fanatics who hate the government and the royal family," said Abdullah [not his real name], a businessman and a member of the 120-man consultative council - the precursor of what may one day become a fully-fledged Saudi parliament. "In their terms, hitting the Prince Sultan air base would make some sort of sense - at least there's an idea behind it. But the idea in Riyadh was to kill and maim as much as possible, and I don't see a political idea there at all.

and this:

All signs pointed to what neither the Palestinians nor the Syrians will acknowledge: Syria has bowed to U.S. pressure and curbed the radicals it has hosted for years.

and this:

``They (the militants) claim they are heroes,'' said Mohammed Zaaneen, 30, a farmer, as he carried rocks into the street. ``They brought us only destruction and made us homeless. They used our farms, our houses and our children ... to hide.''

Far from a terrorist movement that is "winning," these are all prime indications that terrorists are shooting, er, bombing themselves in the foot.

But, that's not what sells in the modern American, and world, media. You keep viewers glued to the screen by offering up just the possibility that we may not be winning. CNN and MSNBC can draw from a pool of Chicken Littles who are willing to spout off for an hour or so about the terrorist sky falling. There's a Chinese curse that says, "May you live in interesting times." Well, these are definitely interesting times, but the major media outlets are determined to make them seem drastically more interesting than they actually are.

What I don't think the media grasps, however, is just how diversified the public has become in its search for balanced reporting. We have the standby big dogs, like NBC, ABC and CBS news, and we have a plethora of cable news channels, and we have magazines and we have newspapers, and now we have the Web, a new tool that I don't think news organizations really have even begun to understand. Using this multitude of sources, we can sift through the crap being flung by the right and the left and find a middle ground that is probably pretty close to the truth.

There are those so hopelessly lost of the right, however, that they will only believe what Fox News and Rush Limbaugh tell them, and there are those lost to the left who only believe what Robert Fisk and Eric Alterman tell them. We have so many information tools in front of us today, we can effectively decide to be informed on all sides, or to galvanize out opinion one way or the other. I'm not sure if that's dangerous or not, but it seems as if it tends to let others think for you, and that's never a safe thing.

That said, I think we're winning the war on terrorism, although I don't pretend to think we'll ever be able to fully stamp it out. As long as there are poor, uneducated, desperate and religiously zealous people on earth, they're going to get together and vent their hatred at their perceived enemies through unsophisticated attacks such as those against Morocco and Saudi Arabia. But, the current terror structure, the one that thrived in Afghanistan and pretty much went unchecked prior to 9/11, that's being dismantled. And, the aura of terrorists as spectral bogeymen is being broken every day, and those that harbor them are either falling into line or being forced to do so at gunpoint.

These are, indeed, interesting times we're living in. But, I don't think they're all that bad.

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

May 23, 2003

What Day Is Today? Uday.

What Day Is Today? Uday.

In honor of today's news that Uday Hussein may be in surrender negotiations with coalition forces, I offer up this little bit of nonsense song (sung to the tune of De Camptown Races).

The Iraqi people hate this man,
Uday, Uday
Olympic athletes died by his hand,
Oh, de bad Uday

G'wine to hide all night
G'wine to hide all day
I bet my money he's shittin' his pants
Knowin' he's gonna pay.

Oh, he lived a life of luxury,
Uday, Uday
All achieved through thuggery
Oh, de bad Uday

G'wine to hide all night
G'wine to hide all day
I bet my money he's shittin' his pants
Knowin' he's gonna pay.

Now he's looking to cut a deal,
Uday, Uday
On his father he'll likely squeal.
Oh, de bad Uday

G'wine to hide all night
G'wine to hide all day
I bet my money he's shittin' his pants
Knowin' he's gonna pay.

Posted by Ryan at 02:34 PM | Comments (0)

Where I'd Rather Be It's

Where I'd Rather Be

It's gorgeous outside. Beautiful. I stepped out the door this morning and just felt compelled to stand still. I wanted to just lay down in the grass, close my eyes, and listen to the world spin. But, I forced myself to go to work, with a heavy heart, mind you.

I like cities. I live in Rochester, I spend about 30 percent of my week in the the twin cities, and I lived a year in Tokyo (which is such a gigantic city, you can't even imagine). But, in a small part of my heart, I'm a country boy. I don't want to be at work. I know, I know; who does? But today, as I stood in the driveway, soaking in the Friday sun, there was only one place I wanted to be.

There's this bridge, about 10 miles away from my hometown. It's deep in the country, pretty much an oasis in the middle of farmland. My friends and I called it Nort's Bridge, although I have no idea why. Talk about secluded, this bridge probably saw about two cars crossing it a day. In its heyday, it was a major high school party spot, with teens actually putting the keg in the direct center of the bridge. Yep, it doesn't get much more hickville than that. But, you know, whatever.

I favored the bridge because of its solitude. It was the one spot I knew of that you could sit and not hear the modern world. You couldn't hear cars, or airplanes, or the droning hum of electricity so prevalent in all cities. You could just hear the world as it would be without humans. That's where I wanted to be this morning, more than any other place. I wanted to rest my chin on the warm, rusted metal bridge cables, feel the sun on my face, and listen to the trees rustling with their newly unfurled leaves, and the birds singing, and the river lazily drifting below. Damn, I wanted to be there.

I forget, sometimes, that this life is mine for only a short while. I get caught up in the concept of getting ahead. I find myself wanting everything and I tend to look down on those who have nothing. And that's wrong. It's me, but it's wrong. Right now, at Nort's Bridge, there's no rich, and there's no poor, and there are no jobs to worry about, there are no relationships to maintain, there is no Internet, and there are no blogs. There's just the bridge, and there's the world, spinning. And I think I really might need that right now.

I always feel like I'm on edge, as if I have to be ready to respond to something. Respond to anything. Perhaps it stems from being attuned to deadlines, I don't know. In the ten years since I graduated from high school, I've become accustomed to this ambitious idea of being someone, and I've lost sight of just being, and I thought about that this morning.

But, I'm at work now, and I'm blogging, and the hum of the computer is to my left, and the sound of office activity is to my right.

And at Nort's Bridge right now, there's silence.

Posted by Ryan at 12:20 PM | Comments (0)

May 22, 2003

My Own Limerick Contest Inspired

My Own Limerick Contest

Inspired by contests over at A Small Victory, I'm conducting my own limerick contest, even though I'm sure only myself and me will take part. Anyway, the theme for this contest is the recent news story about Michael Jackson checking into a hospital with an unknown illness. Shall we begin? Winner gets the scab off my elbow scrape.

Michael Jackson is a pop star of old
It's been ages since his records went gold
When he realized this streak
He felt incredibly weak
He's just sick that his career has gone cold

It's not my intention to be a big prick
But Michael Jackson's face just makes me say "ick."
They're not sure why he fell ill
And perhaps never will
But there's no doubting that the man is just sick

Posted by Ryan at 05:01 PM | Comments (0)

A Nooner And A Lottery

A Nooner And A Lottery Ticket

So, I went home for "lunch," and had a nooner with the woman. And I have the damn carpet burns on my knees to prove it!

Anyway, I was feeling lucky on my way back to work, so I stopped and bought a $5 lottery ticket. Follow along, if you will, as I scratch my way to financial freedom:

Five spins to win at slots. D'oh! D'oh! D'oh! D'oh! D'oh!

Find two matching cards, win $20. Get two aces, win $40. D'oh!

Match any number to the wheel number. Six chances. D'oh! D'oh! D'oh! D'oh! D'oh! D'oh!

Uncover three numbers; if they equal 7, 11 or 21, you win. Two chances. D'oh! D'oh!

Beat the blackjack dealers hand, win prize shown. Five chances to win. D'oh! D'oh! D'oh! D'oh! D'oh!

Back to work. *grumble*

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

Managing To Avoid Management This

Managing To Avoid Management

This morning we had our weekly editorial meeting for eServer Magazine. I usually don't say much during the meetings; I just give a quick update on where I'm at with the articles and other magazine content I'm working on, and I'll throw a snarky little one-liner in if something is spoken that amuses me. But, overall, I just sit there and let my publisher and managing editor discuss mundane things such as editorial calendars and IBM legal matters. It's fascinating in a "thank goodness I don't have to do that" sort of way.

When I first started as news editor for this magazine, there was only one magazine. In the year and a half since I joined the staff we've picked up three more publications without picking up additional staff. To say I have job security right now would be a major understatement, which is quite a relief in this trembling economy.

Well, anyway, our latest magazine addition needs a managing hand, and the forces that be briefly suggested that I take on that role. When that was mentioned in today's meeting, I was ready to shout "Noooooooooooooooooooo!" until all the air was out of my lungs and all you could hear was a choking gurgle. I don't want to manage, and I've never wanted to manage, ANYTHING. I'll write. And, I'll edit. But, I WILL NOT manage. I learned early on, way back in college, and probably even earlier than that, that my skills are that of a writer, not a manager. Take one look around my desk right now, and you'll agree that my organizational skills are not those of a manager-type person.

"I won't do it," I said, matter-of-factly, although my head was still screaming "Nooooooooooooo!"

My publisher looked at me with a cocked head, sort of like a quizzical doberman, but then he nodded and said, "Well, I told them (them being the publishing company I work for) that I didn't think you wanted to do that."

At that point my managing editor chimed in. I told her months ago that I never wanted to have managerial duties. "Ryan's explained his position on this to me before. I don't think he'd like this."

So, I get to stay in my happy writing capacity, and I'm so relieved right now, I think I'm going to pee.

Posted by Ryan at 11:28 AM | Comments (0)

May 21, 2003

Race Versus Lazy Greed "I

Race Versus Lazy Greed

"I want to offer my experience as a lesson," Mr. Blair writes, "for the precipice from which I plunged is one on which many young, ambitious, well-educated and accomplished African Americans and other ‘minorities' teeter, though most, of course, do manage to pull back from the brink. That precipice overhangs America's racial divide; and the winds sucking us down into the chasm (cultural isolation, professional mistrust, and the external and internal imperatives to succeed, at all costs, to name a few) can be too strong for the troubled and unprepared—as I was—to withstand.

No, Jayson Blair, you're a liar. You're a liar and a despicable plagiarist thief. You made money by fabricating tales and passing them off as legitimate news, deeply shaking an already incredulous public faith in the machine of the modern media. And now you want a book deal so you can make more money trying to establish a tenuous connection to your race and your blatant disregard for the truth and journalistic integrity. You tout yourself as a well-educated and accomplished African American, thereby insulting those who are truly well-educated and accomplished African Americans. Screw you, Jayson Blair. The last second is ticking off your 15 minutes of fame, and I hope you forever suffer for your reckless and lazy approach to journalism.

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

Abstinence. It's Enough. NOT! One

Abstinence. It's Enough. NOT!

One thing that's driven me butt-assed buggy about the Bush II administration is their insistence that sexual education in schools should be limited to "abstinence only." To me, this makes about as much sense as ignoring something in the hopes it will go away.

For the past two mornings, while driving to work, I've heard the same commercial featuring young-sounding folks talking about how they're choosing abstinence. It's pretty catchy, in a totally shortsighted sort of way. "Holding hands. It's enough." Having fun. It's enough." Being friends. It's enough." "Smoking crack and having a threesome. It's enough." Whoops. scratch that last one.

Now, I'm not bashing on the idea of abstinence here. Obviously, it's the best choice if you want to ensure that you're not a father or mother at the age of 16. But, since when do 16 year-olds consistently make the best choice? When strange and wonderful hormones start swimming in the bodies of developing teens, common sense goes out the backdoor faster than a repairman from the house of a cheating wife when the hubby comes home unexpectedly. Abstinence. Yay. Great. But. . .

We're now far into Bush Jr's first term, and we learn that, shock and forsooth, Study: Teens not waiting to have sex.

Waiting to have sex is a nice idea, teenagers say, but they believe hardly anyone does it. Many teens, particularly boys, feel pressure to have sex, and they say drugs and alcohol often lead to sex — often without condoms.

Fascinating. So, in other words, not much has changed since I was in high school all those many years ago.

The problem with folks who rail against the concept of sexual education in the schools, I believe, is that they labor under the belief that sex ed somehow means the teacher stands in front of the class and pairs students up for some good old copulation, and then goes up and down the aisles pointing out faults in their technique.

Real, honest-to-goodness sexual education, education that doesn't just preach "Sex. You shouldn't do that," doesn't encourage sex, as many conservatives claim. I had sex ed in high school. In fact, my father was my sex ed teacher, so I was surrounded by sex ed material at school and at home, and I'm here to tell you that nothing takes the mystery and excitement out of sex faster than seeing pictures of assorted venereal diseases and having to take tests on the reproductive systems of men and women.

"Get those blasted mammary glands and areolas away from me woman! And, take your labia majora and labia minora and your cervix and your fallopian tubes and your whole freakin' uterus with you! Can't you see I'm studying here!"

Obviously, I'm being a tad silly here. No amount of sexual education can squash the reproductive urges of hormone-laden teens, but comprehensive sex ed does set reasonable common sense boundaries for teens who choose to wrestle in the bedsheets. Namely, it dispells all those sex myths like "occasionally going without a condom is okay" and that "pulling out prevents pregnancy." It explains the biology of sex and reproduction, and why little Richie has a face full of acne and a raging boner in math class. It takes the mystery out of sex and shows teens who don't choose abstinence how to take some semblance of control over their bodies even when they can't control their hormones.

Is sex ed foolproof? Of course not. Teens will continue to get pregnant. But, which would you rather have: a teen sent forth in the world knowing nothing but abstinence, or a teen who understands how sex and reproduction works and how to protect themselves should the need arise? Or, to put it another way. . .

Abstinence. It's enough


Comprehensive sexual education that explains sexual biology and the consequences of bad sexual choices and how to prevent them. It's enough.


Posted by Ryan at 09:53 AM | Comments (0)

May 20, 2003

The Law Of The Lawn

The Law Of The Lawn

A couple of weeks ago, I called my parents who live in Tokyo. Conversation with my mother, as is often the case, centered around my life and their's. However, as soon as the phone was handed to my father, the conversation took a drastic, if somewhat expected turn.

"So, how's the lawn looking?" he asked.

My father loves his lawn. Nay, my father deeply loves his lawn. On a warm July evening, if the wind is just right, you can hear my father softly serenading his lawn with a lyre, lulling it to sleep.

Unfortunately, because my parents live in Tokyo nine months out of the year, my father is prevented from dedicating as much time as he would like to his lawn. Therefore, come April, it falls upon me to travel back to my hometown about once a week to ensure my parents' yard is kept trim and proper, which is to say I run over it quickly with a push mower and call it good. My father doesn't understand my lackluster approach to lawn care.

"You know, If you find the time, you should really look around and see if there's some crabgrass that needs to be pulled out."

I don't know what crabgrass is. I truthfully don't care what crabgrass is. And, I'm certainly not going to comb over my father's lawn looking for some strange grass that I imagine is crawling with tiny, angry crabs.

During the summer months of June, July and August, when my parents are home, it's common to see my father patrolling his lawn during the day, looking for rogue dandelions or any other weed that may catch his eye. Should he spot a nefarious non-grass growth, he'll drop to his knees and begin frantically tweezing at it with his thumb and forefinger. Once he rips the weed from the ground by its weedy roots, he'll immediately search the surrounding area for other weed spawns, slightly resembling an eager dog snuffling for gophers as he does so.

"Do you know if they came and sprayed the lawn last fall? If they did, there shouldn't be many weeds this year. But it wouldn't hurt to check around to make sure. You should do that."

My father and his lawn are the prime culprits behind yearly river fishkills, and the main reason why there's an annual spike in stock prices for TruGreen ChemLawn. If my father isn't on the phone calling a lawn service, he's out with his own spray bottle targeting weeds with more precision than any satellite guided missile in the U.S. arsenal.

On more than one occasion, my father accidently mixed the chemicals in his spray bottle way too strong, effectively creating a concoction that could kill a sequoia from 20 feet away. The end result was a lawn dotted with splotches of chemically-fried grass, much to the dismay of my lawn-loving father. Undaunted, however, he simply dug up the burnt patches and planted anew.

"If you find the time, you should also bring the hoses out and put them out near the facets. It could be getting pretty hot soon so you might want to get some water running on the boulevards. It's sandy and dry on that part of the lawn, you know."

Which brings me to my father's other main lawn-related pastime: watering. The man waters his lawn more than Nile farmers irrigate their crops. He buys sprinklers by the crateload. It's rare for me to drive home to see my parents in the summer and NOT see and arcing rainbow of water waving back and forth across the lawn. My father simply isn't satisfied unless his feet sink a quarter of an inch into the dirt. Then, and only then, is the lawn sufficiently watered.

"Don't let the mowed grass pile up on the lawn. If it's too long, you might have to rake it. Be sure to rake it."

Sure, Dad. I'll get right on that.

Posted by Ryan at 12:06 PM | Comments (0)

May 19, 2003

This Hermann Goering Quote Has

This Hermann Goering Quote Has Been Bothering Me

I try to keep up with the anti-Iraq-war and anti-war-on-terror viewpoints because, as much as I continually believe I'm always right, I'm willing to acquiesce that sometimes, occasionally, other people may have something compelling to say that could change my mind. I thought such an occurence came about about a month ago when this Hermann Goering quote started making appearances all over the blogosphere.

Goering, for those unfamiliar with history, was the Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe in Nazi Germany during World War II. He said:

"Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."

The emphasis here, of course, is usually provided by the folks who plop this quote on their blogs, and they wave this as proof that the Bush Jr. administration is dragging the U.S. along the same simple formula. As I've said before, I'm no huge fan of the Bush administration. Until they pull this economy out of the muck and start addressing, successfully, some of the problems here at home, that Texan won't earn my vote in '04.

However, the real Bush haters, the ones who feel he stole an election and simply wages war for oil, are determined to transmogrify the man into a short angry leader with a wispy cookie duster moustache and a bad combover. They cry fascism any time the terror alert system clicks up a notch or a celebrity is chastised for blowing their ignorant blather.

First, it should be noted that Goering was not a professional propagandist. That honor fell to Joseph Goebbels. Second, Goering did not utter that infamous quote during testimony at the Nuremburg Trials, as many believe. Rather, he was engaged in debate, while sitting in his cell, with an individual named Gustave Gilbert. Gilbert, who was given free access to the inmates awaiting sentencing, kept a journal of his conversations with the prisoners. So, in other words, you essentially have a condemned man, who is not a professional propagandist, lamenting his fate to whoever will listen, trying to deflect blame for his murderous role in history. Goering was not exactly an authority on anything at that point, in my opinion.

But, let me pick apart the quote itself.

Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders.

Well, not really. If there's one thing that Vietnam taught us, it's that people aren't necessarily mindless cows being trotted out to pasture and back. But, that was Vietnam. If we were to take Goering at his word here, today, with the Iraq conflict and the war on terror, we should have seen the resurrection of the draft with everyone clamboring to grab a rifle. But, that didn't happen.

All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.

The major problem here is that we weren't just TOLD we were being attacked. We WERE attacked. 9/11 wasn't some fluke navigational error. It was a coordinated assault on our home soil and our very way of life, and if you don't believe that, you've been watching too much American Idol and refusing to acknowledge the realities of the world today. If you really, truly, honestly believe that dreadful day was an isolated incident that couldn't possibly happen again, you seriously need a big steaming mug of "wake the fuck up."

As for denouncing pacifists, the sword cuts both ways here. Well, yeah, pacifists have been denounced, but at the same time, war-proponents are subject to criticism, too. How many "peaceful" protests have turned ugly when the protestors tossed a rock through a store window sporting a "Liberate Iraq" sign, and how many 9/11 memorials have been defiled by the same?

The crushing of dissent in both camps is alive and well, but you primarily hear about anti-war folks being denounced because, more often then not, they're high-profile celebrities spewing ignorance. Where do they get the idea that they're somehow an authority on anything but acting? I can just about imagine the repercussions if I were to use this magazine's weekly editorial meetings to ascend the pulpit and use the entire hour to spout off about the war. I certainly HOPE my co-workers would tell me to shut up and sit down, because it's not my job to express my opinions on world affairs; it's my job to write about high technology news. The same goes for celebs. Their job is to act, not subject everyone to their half-formed ideas about how the government works or doesn't work.

Take the Goering quote however you will, but I tend to view it as a stream-of-consciousness uttering from a desperate and destroyed man, not as an ominious denunciation of the current war on terror.

Posted by Ryan at 12:04 PM | Comments (3)

"Golfing the Hawaiian Way," c.

"Golfing the Hawaiian Way," c. Ryan Rhodes, Jan. 14, 2002

One of the nicest aspects of my Hawaiian vacation this year was the opportunity to golf with my father on a pristine tropical golf course. Unfortunately, one of the most stressful aspects of my Hawaiian vacation was the process involved in actually arriving at a pristine tropical golf course with my father.

It should be understood that, even though my family and I have enjoyed many Hawaiian Christmas vacations, we have done so under the strict understanding that money does not grow on trees, palm or otherwise.

Therefore, when my father and I decided to test our skills on a Hawaiian golf course this year, I found myself on the phone for a full hour one morning calling golf courses around the island to ascertain the best rates. It turns out that afternoon rates are generally over $100 cheaper per person, and an overall round of 18 holes can be downright reasonable. So, on Christmas Eve day, I contacted the golf course with the best afternoon rates and set a tee off time for 12:15. Now, remember that time, 12:15, because my father certainly did.

Even though we had no idea where the golf course actually was, we had been on the island before and were relatively certain we could find it without a problem in plenty of time. What we did not count on was the streets of Kona being jam packed with Christmas Eve shoppers.

11:30 a.m. - My father and I get in the car and find ourselves in bumper-to-bumper traffic within three minutes. My father begins methodically chewing his nails. "This could be a problem," he says, and takes a break from chewing his nails in order to glance at his watch.

11:40 a.m. - We advance about four blocks in ten minutes, and my father's nail biting begins with renewed fervor. "Are you sure you know where the turn-off is to this place?" my father asks. I assure him that it will be no problem, and I hope his incessant finger gnawing doesn't result in bloodshed.

11:50 a.m. - In the distance, a green stop light has been looming for several seconds, yet traffic is at a standstill. My father says something under his breath, and I make a silent wish that we catch the green light.

11:52 a.m. - The light turns red just as we reach within three cars of the signal. My father throws up his hands and says, "Well, we're obviously not going to make it now! What time did you say our tee off is? 12:15?! No chance."

Noon - After making pretty good time following the stop light, I tell my father to take a right, and we drive, and we drive, and then we drive some more, all the while climbing higher and higher onto the volcanic slope. "Well, this can't be right," he says. "We're just driving up and up!"

12:10 p.m. - We turn around and go back. Then we take a right and drive for awhile. Then we turn around and drive back and turn back onto the rode that goes up and up and up.

12:20 p.m. - We're late. I ask my father to drop me off so I can ask directions. "What good is that going to do?!!" he growls. For one thing, it will get me out of the hostage situation I feel I'm engaged in within the vehicle.

12:25 p.m. - The gentlemen I ask directions from do, indeed, know where the golf course is, and they inform me we're on the right road and should just keep going up the mountain. I hesitate returning to my father with this information. "Well?" he prods when I re-enter the car. I tell him to keep going up the mountain. He growls and resumes his nail gnawing. I grow increasingly afraid.

12:40 p.m. - We drive past the turn-off to the golf course and have to journey about a mile before my father finds a place to turn around. His face appears to have changed eight different shades of red during the trip. I decide not to inform him of this.

12:45 p.m. - We pull into the golf course parking lot, and I can't wait to leap out of the car and put some distance between myself and my Tasmanian devil father.

Now, the journey itself was fraught with stress, but that didn't prepare me at all for the drama that awaited us inside the club house. I made sure that I raced into the club house to explain why we were late for our tee off time. The woman behind the counter seemed unconcerned that we were late for our tee off time. In fact, we could go golfing right away, except for one thing.

"We require all golfers to wear collared shirts on the course," she informed me. "I'm sorry."

Now, we weren't dressed like slobs, but neither were we dressed in collared shirts, and we didn't have collared shirts with us. I looked behind me to see my father standing rigid as a tree, seemingly lost in his own demented world of golf course mass murder.

Before he could let loose with whatever it was that was going through his mind, I told my father that we should just pick out a couple of nice collared shirts, and that I would pay for them. We had just about picked out our shirts when the clerk informed us that we were looking through the women's wear. It seemed fitting, actually, because by that time I was willing to wear lingerie so long as I was able to golf and that my father averted a major coronary.

I ended up shelling out $76 for two shirts, and I went outside to change. I went outside for two reasons. First of all, I didn't know there was a changing room inside. Second of all, I wanted to make sure I was close to the car in case my father decided to drive it through the front door of the club house.

My father emerged from the club house wearing his new collared shirt just as I finished changing into my own. We stood there, father and son, in nearly identical collared shirts, finally ready to take on the Hawaiian links.

At that moment, and I'm not making this up, two people who had just completed their round of golf drove by in a golf cart. Neither golfer was wearing a collared shirt.

Posted by Ryan at 12:32 AM | Comments (0)

May 16, 2003

Go Now. Read This.

Go Now. Read This.

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

Shamed Into Doing An Old

Shamed Into Doing An Old Friday Five. . .Sort Of

The plain one known as Layne has shamed me into doing something I vowed never to do; namely, doing a Friday Five. But, I refuse to do a Friday Five. I won't, I won't, I won't. Instead, I'll just list some of the more embarrasing, and not-so-embarrasing, songs I listen to while I'm running. These are all stored on my little MP3 player.

You Can Call Me Al by Paul Simon: I'm not sure why I cling to this song. It was played over and over again by the crazy South Dakota girl I dated briefly a couple years ago. She was also gung ho about a horrible assault on the ears song called Heroin by Lou Reed and a bunch of techno-jazz shit that she insisted on listening to while she slept. But, You Can Call Me Al is still a pretty neat song.

Doll Parts by Hole: One of two Hole songs I run to. Trust me, it's a bitch to run to this song, because it's devoid of any coherent beat, but it's angry Courtney Love at her most angry worst/best. The other Hole song on my MP3 player is Malibu, which is pretty upbeat, er, for Courtney Love.

Breathe by Telepopmusic: You may remember this song as the background tune to a recent Mitsubishi commercial. I'm apparently a sucker for Mitsubishi commercial music, because I also run to Days Go By by Dirty Vegas.

The theme song from the movie Gladiator: this tune just does something for me. It's borderline classical, but it's not quite. I like classical music, too, but I don't run to it. This song is just really powerful.

Book Of Days by Enya: Don't ask me. I have no fucking clue why I keep this on there. It's a bitch to run to, it's slow, and it's ENYA! I should remove it, but strangely I don't. You can start your Freudian analysis. . . NOW!

Special by Garbage: Sure, the lead singer for Garbage, Shirley Manson, looks like she could tear me apart in bed while at the same time leaving me the most satisfied man on the planet, but this song just plain rocks, and it's a blast to run to. Other Garbage songs on my MP3 player include Only Happy When It Rains and Push It.

More Human Than Human by White Zombie: Warning, if you run to this song, there is an 80% chance you'll be in a dead sprint at the end. It's THAT fast and THAT cool. Any song that starts with the sounds of a woman being sexed up is just bound to kick ass.

Breathe by Prodigy: On a par with More Human Than Human, I've loved this tune since college. There's something about the sword sounds in the background that just make this song click. Me likey.

Fade Into You by Mazzy Star: When I first heard this, it was an unusually warm October afternoon in the North Woods of Minnesota, and I was driving home from my grandfather's funeral. Say what you want about Northern Minnesota, it still has the most stellar fall colors in the world. It was magical, and it was sad, and this song just brought it all together.

Answer The Phone by Sugar Ray: I know, I know. Sugar Ray? This is just a fun song, and it's great to run to. But. . . Sugar Ray?

Concrete Sky by Beth Orton: Another song I don't recommend running to, but I was drawn to the tune one night while surfing the Web. She has a smokey voice, which I'm always a sucker for. But, jeez, this guy apparently didn't care for the diddy.

Not An Addict by K's Choice: I fell in love with this song in college, and I've never even done drugs. Maybe if I started doing drugs I'd appreciate it even more. Something to think about.

I'm On Fire by Bruce Springsteen: One of those songs that's just over too fast.

There are a bunch of others, but I can't remember them right off hand. This should provide Layne with plenty of psychological analysis fodder though. Knock yourself out.

Posted by Ryan at 10:43 AM | Comments (0)

May 15, 2003

You Know Your Friend's A

You Know Your Friend's A Farm Boy If. . .

Marc says: Wow! She's looking pretty good today.

Ryan says: Visiting porn sites, eh?

Marc says: No, just looking at the corn price.

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

Entering "fuck me for a

Entering "fuck me for a Buck" Rhodes

Okay, I was totally perplexed when I was going through my referral list and I saw that somebody visited my site from some place called "" So, I went to "," entered my blog URL, and I was confronted with the best fucking laugh I've had in weeks. But, don't take my word for it, do it yourself. Do it now! Do it harder! Come on! Do it! Yeah! That's it! Do it!

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

Standing Up and Standing Out

Standing Up and Standing Out

I drove up to the cities Tuesday night after work, because I had this big important conference to attend Wednesday and I figured it gave me the perfect excuse to see Melissa during the week. She's drowning in final exam and final project work this week, but we still found time to go out to eat and enjoy some quality copulation.

We ate at Ol Mexico Tuesday night, and much to my wonderful surprise, we discovered that they have NTN trivia, which is a borderline obsession with me. We ate and drank and played trivia until 11 p.m., and it was probably the most perfect Tuesday evening I've enjoyed in months. We got back to Mel's apartment and she insisted on a quickie because she wanted to get as much sleep as possible before taking her exam on Wednesday. Now, if there's one thing about condoms, they preclude any possibility of a quickie. Quickie's don't happen with condoms unless you're a 17 year old male about to boink a porn star. I told Mel that, since a quickie just wouldn't be possible, we'd be better off just going to bed. She wouldn't hear of it, so we proceeded to have a "longie" instead. I was fine with that.

Wednesday, I drove to the big important conference, which was the grand unvieling of a new technology enablement center put together by some company called MSI Systems Integrators. It wasn't an incredible waste of time, but from my standpoint as the product news writer for our magazine, they didn't bring much to the table. I arrived about five minutes late, and when I entered the conference hall, I became immediately aware that I was the only person wearing jeans. Not that I really cared, but I definitely stood out in the sea of suits and ties and loafers. There I stood in my 1969 boot fit jeans, Sketchers, and a Gap short sleeved shirt with collar. And I continued to stand because most of the seats on the outside were taken and I didn't feel like shuffling my way to seats in the center. So, I stood in the back, the young pup bucking the undeclared dress code, and the only person not wearing a name tag. I felt a strange power to my anonymity, keeping MSI guessing whether I was a crasher or some high-powered new-age Hank Scorpio company president. Nope, I'm just Ryan Rhodes, a guy who doesn't dress up unless somebody died.

I will say one thing for the $4 million MSI TEC center: that place has A LOT of high technology toys, most of which was "donated" by IBM, including a huge mainframe, an iSeries 810, a Shark storage rack with 1.5 TB of data storage capability, and a slew of other equipment that could keep a small country operating well into the future. Pretty cool stuff, even though I have no idea how most of works. All I know is that the technology is what I write about, which in turn pays my rent and other life expenses, so I was obligated to ooh and ahh.

MSI knew how to shmooze, providing everything from limo rides, to snacks, to drinks. I almost didn't feel worthy in my jeans and Sketchers.

Last night, Mel and I went back to Ol Mexico for food and drink and trivia, and we also watched the Wild hockey team show that they are hopelessly outmatched by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Oh well, it's been a great ride.

And I got to have some stellar morning sex this before driving back to Rochester, and that always makes the drive home seem pretty groovy.

Posted by Ryan at 10:30 AM | Comments (0)

May 13, 2003

News You May Have Missed,

News You May Have Missed, But Shouldn't Have

It's been an edge-of-your seat few months in the news. We've weathered the huge SARS scare, we've learned that our state of Minnesota is in such dire financial straits most college student credit card debts look applealing by comparison, and there was some sort of scuffle over in some country called Iraq, or something.

Given our preoccupation with such gigantic news stories, it's understandable that other important news items just slipped through the cracks. But, fear not! As a dedicated journalist, and a marginally humorous columnist, and a smoking hot specimen of male hunkiness, I'm here to catch those jilted stories and bring them to you, my valued readers. I mean, sure, the war in Iraq was a pretty big deal and all, but in my opinion it should have shared front page ink with a story about 87 nude passengers on a flight to Cancun.

According to a May 5 Associated Press report out of Miami, Fla., a Houston travel agency specializing in clothing-optional getaways organized the trip. Passengers paid $499 for the trip, with many heading to Cancun's El Dorado Resort & Spa for Nude Week.

I guess, to me, the real news here isn't the concept of a clothing optional flight so much as the revelation that there's a place on this great earth that celebrates "Nude Week." Now THAT'S a week worth observing.

"These are professionals who lead very stressful lives and are ready to let it all go," said Donna Daniels, co-owner of the Castaways travel agency and an in-the-buff traveler on the inaugural flight. "They are adventurers and risk takers. They don't even want clothes as a constraint."

Well, if nudism is a sign of an adventurous risk taker then, judging by all the nude pictures of me as a baby and a toddler, I was Evil Knievel. You can't flip through my photo album without seeing at least one picture of my bare bottom on every page. I'm sure my parents were forced to wonder on occasion, "what is our child smoking?" Well, I'm here to tell you, I wasn't smoking anything, and if I was, and somebody stole it, I certainly wouldn't report it to the police like SOME people.

According to a">May 8 Associated Press report out of Dublin, Ga., a school bus driver who reported an apparent burglary at his home, also told police someone took his marijuana.

Okay class, what's the most alarming part of that sentence? Hint: school bus driver. And here everyone in Dublin, Ga., just thought it was coincidence that that one bus was always travelling so slow and stopping at every fast food drive-thru in town.

John Randolph, 29, made the call Monday, according to a Dublin police department report. When officers arrived, Randolph said a thief took four "dime bags" of marijuana, along with a .22-caliber pistol, a gold necklace and $30 in change. Randolph told the officer he was "saving the marijuana to smoke when school was out," according to the police report.

I really can't add anything funny to that excerpt. Some comedy just simply writes itself, which is more than you can say about six monkeys in front of a computer.

According to a">May 9 Associated Press report out of London, researchers at Plymouth University in England reported this week that primates left alone with a computer attacked the machine and failed to produce a single word.

This groundbreaking research was meant to test the theory that an infinite number of monkeys in front of an infinite number of computers would eventually, out of sheer coincidence, produce works comparable to Shakespeare. Lacking an infinite number of monkeys and an infinite number of computers, however, the researchers had to settle for a single machine and six Sulawesi crested macaques. The results were less than encouraging.

"They pressed a lot of S's," researcher Mike Phillips said Friday. "Obviously, English isn't their first language. Another thing they were interested in was in defecating and urinating all over the keyboard."

I guess I can empathize with the monkies on this one. Many is the time when, confronted by writer's block, I was sorely tempted to simply press a lot of S's and then defecate and urinate on the keyboard. Granted, I held back, but the strong urge was there nonetheless.

"They were quite interested in the screen, and they saw that when they typed a letter, something happened. There was a level of intention there."

That's more than I can say.

Posted by Ryan at 12:06 PM | Comments (0)

My IBM Bathroom Is ALWAYS

My IBM Bathroom Is ALWAYS Being Cleaned

I just stepped away from my computer so I could go relieve my Diet Pepsi filled bladder. Lo and behold, there was a yellow caution sign propped in front of the men's room. This is the warning to all men that a cleaning lady is inside doing her bathroom cleaning duty. That's just fine. I prefer clean bathrooms.

However, it seems like that damn caution sign is up ALL the time. Every time I need to go to the bathroom, that damn yellow sign is posted in front of the door. Every. Damn. Time. I can't take it any more. I'm about to pee in my empty Diet Pepsi bottle. What could they possibly be doing in the bathroom that takes that long to clean, and why does it require cleaning nearly 20 times a day?

Even worse that seeing the sign standing like a sentry is being caught in the bathroom when the cleaning lady pops her head in the door and yells, "Cleaning lady! Anybody in here?!" It's mortifying to be in mid-grunt while at the same time yelling back, "Yes, I'll just be a minute!"

Back when I went to school in Tokyo, the cleaning ladies didn't have such qualms about cleaning around men with exposed privates. The little old ladies would just come right in, no matter how many guys were lined up against the urinals or in the stalls, and they would just start cleaning. I swear, if I left my wang exposed long enough, they would have scrubbed that, too.

But here, the culture is a tad different. I actually would care less if the cleaning ladies at IBM marched in when I was in mid-pee. I mean, at least I'm relieving my bladder. And, right now, I really gotta pee.

Posted by Ryan at 10:32 AM | Comments (0)

May 09, 2003

I Almost Watched Sports History

I Almost Watched Sports History In The Making Last Night

The Minnesota Wild became the first hockey team in history to come back from a 3-1 playoff deficit twice during the same playoffs. It had never been done before. Never. Until last night.

And I didn't fucking see it.

I'm a hopeless fair weather fan, as I suspect most Minnesota sports fans are. I love watching Minnesota teams do well, but I can't stand watching them lose. After being disappointed by your hometown teams with such maddening repetition, you just sort of become ambivalent. Our last great hurrah was the Minnesota Twins winning the World Series way back when. Since then, we've watched the Vikings blow a 15-1 season at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons and a Gary Anderson (a.k.a. Ray Finkle) choked field goal. We've watched the Timberwolves make a token appearance in the first round of the playoffs and then quickly bow out more times than I care to remember. We had the whole Gopher men's basketball fiasco awhile back. And the Gopher football team? Well, don't get me started with them.

Our brightest sports star is in the realm of wrestling (and not that professional wrestling BULLSHIT either), but nobody seems to care about the best sport of all time, for all time. Just so you know, wrestling is the greatest sport in the world, and I'm not just saying that because I was a wrestler, and my dad was my coach.

But, anyway. I watched the Wild fall behind 2-0 against the Vancouver Canucks last night, and I gave them up for lost. I clicked off the television and fired up Medal of Honor. I figured I'd soothe my frazzled hockey nerves by laying waste to a few Nazis. As Indiana Jones said, "Nazis. I hate these guys."

For the record, Medal of Honor just so totally rocks. I mean, I like first person shooters, but this game just sets the first person shooter bar way high. It's just incredible. The graphics are so richly textured, you swear you're in a war ravaged French village. And the sound is such that you literally jump out of your skin when you hear bullets whizz past you. My only compaint is that there's not enough gore. I know, I know. . . there must be something wrong with me if I want to see blood flowing from a freshly snuffed Nazi. But, it has nothing to do with that and everything to do with realism. It's just not natural to riddle an enemy body with bullets and not even see a trickle of blood. I'm not asking for brains and intestines splattering or anything. Just a little blood. That's all.

So, I finish my Medal of Honor mission and shut the game down. I then go online to see the final damage for the Wild game. fuck-a-duck-a-ding-dong! They came back to win it 4-2! I was stunned. I was happy! I was elated! I couldn't believe I fucking missed it!

It's enough to make me want to shoot a Nazi.

Posted by Ryan at 02:21 PM | Comments (0)

May 08, 2003

Ah, This Clears Everything Up

Ah, This Clears Everything Up

Everything you ever wanted to know about the Internet, but were too busy surfing the Internet to ask.

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

Ventura Channels His Inner Iraqi

Ventura Channels His Inner Iraqi Information Minister
Former Minnesota Governor Insists Show Not In Trouble

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (Rhodes Media Services) -- Jesse Ventura, former governor of Minnesota and current shameless self-promoter, has vehemently been denying rumors that his upcoming MSNBC television program is "terrible."

Standing in front of a hurriedly constructed, poorly lighted makeshift press room, as well as a stack of microphones, most of which weren't plugged into anything, Ventura spoke at length about the strength of his cable program and how he believed it would "crush the many headed snake" of other similar issue-oriented talk shows.

"Truly, truly I tell you that my show, the Jesse Ventura Show, is as strong and powerful as I, Jesse Ventura, the man who shocked the world, am," said Ventura while flexing his right bicep. "The great media Satan -- those jackals -- would have you believe that my show is doomed to failure. Do not believe them!! If you have fallen under the slithering charm of those despicable non-humans, I am here to tell you that you are too far from reality!"

Ventura continued to speak despite a cleaning crew working behind him, apparently clearing the set for what appeared to be a different talk show that will apparently be hosted by Gary Coleman.

"No! No! I have not been usurped by a has-been African American with stunted growth!" admonished Ventura, his chin quivering. "These are simply vicious lies and bad theater put on by a media cabal in the throes of desperation. I stand before you now and tell you, as has always been my opinion, I will roast their stomachs in hell and beat them about the head and face with smelly old running shoes!"

Posted by Ryan at 12:10 PM | Comments (0)

May 07, 2003

Pax Is Back Salam Pax,

Pax Is Back

Salam Pax, the enigmatic Iraqi blogger, has re-materialized. Read him, at length, here.

And, I have to say, Pax is a lot more level-headed than people here in America who adopt either a blood-thirsty pro-war stance or a short-sighted no war at all stance. It would be great if we, as a nation, were able to see things as two-sided as Pax can, and he's LIVED THROUGH the war. An example:

Let me tell you one thing first. War sucks big time. Don't let yourself ever be talked into having one waged in the name of your freedom. Somehow when the bombs start dropping or you hear the sound of machine guns at the end of your street you don't think about your "imminent liberation" anymore.

But I am sounding now like the Taxi drivers I have fights with whenever I get into one.

Besides asking for outrageous fares (you can't blame them gas prices have gone up 10 times, if you can get it) but they start grumbling and mumbling and at a point they would say something like "well it wasn't like the mess it is now when we had Saddam". This is usually my cue for going into rage-mode. We Iraqis seem to have very short memories, or we simply block the bad times out. I ask them how long it took for us to get the electricity back again after he last war? 2 years until things got to what they are now, after 2 months of war. I ask them how was the water? Bad. Gas for car? None existent. Work? Lots of sitting in street tea shops. And how did everything get back? Hussain Kamel used to literally beat and whip people to do the impossible task of rebuilding. Then the question that would shut them up, so, dear Mr. Taxi driver would you like to have your Saddam back? Aren't we just really glad that we can now at least have hope for a new Iraq? Or are we Iraqis just a bunch of impatient fools who do nothing better than grumble and whine? Patience, you have waited for 35 years for days like these so get to working instead of whining. End of conversation.

The truth is, if it weren't for intervention this would never have happened. When we were watching the Saddam statue being pulled down, one of my aunts was saying that she never thought she would see this day during her lifetime.


War. No matter what the outcome is. These things leave a trail of destruction behind them. There were days when the Red Crescent was begging for volunteers to help in taking the bodies of dead people off the city street and bury them properly. The hospital grounds have been turned to burial grounds when the electricity went out and there was no way the bodies can be kept until someone comes and identifies.

I confess to the sin of being an escapist. When reality hurts I block it out, unless it comes right up to me and knocks me cold. My mother, after going out once after Baghdad was taken by the US Army, decided she is not going out again, not until I promise it looks kind of normal and OK. So I guess the Ostrich maneuver runs in the family.

Things are looking kind of OK, these days. Life has a way of moving on. Your senses are numbed, things stop shocking you. If there is one thing you should believe in, it is that life will find a way to push on, humans are adaptable, that is the only way to explain how such a foolish species has kept itself on this planet without wiping itself out. Humans are very adaptable, physically and emotionally.

Posted by Ryan at 11:55 AM | Comments (0)

Zen And The Art of

Zen And The Art of PC Ownership

I'm a very laid back individual. I don't flip out if they mess up my order at a fast food drive through, I don't suffer from road rage, I'm fine with standing in long lines, and I don't put my foot through the television any time another reality show comes on (despite every justification on earth to do so).

I wasn't always able to play things so cool. Things used to really bother me, to the point where I'd yell and scream and rant and rave, and that was never a good way to get through a first date. Then, I bought a personal computer loaded with assorted Microsoft offerings and I magically found that all my frustrations at life could be directed toward my computer.

When it comes down to it, when you really look at how Microsoft PCs operate, or refuse to operate, you really have to marvel at just how much frustration the average human being is capable of enduring.

What other daily item can you think of has to be restarted every so often to shake out irritating bugs? Well, besides bug zappers, I mean. Just the other day, I was happily surfing the Internet when a warning flashed across my screen informing me that "a fatal error has occurred" and that I would have to shut down immediately. A fatal error? Every time I see that message, I envision some sort of unseen digital car crash. A family of four bits, on their way to a vacation to DigitalWorld, smashed into an errant line of code and were all killed instantly. A fatal error had occurred, and to allow the computer a significant mourning period, the user must restart the machine and give it an appropriate moment of silence.

I mean, really, think about it. Imagine driving down the road, and all of a sudden the "Service Engine Soon" light comes on. Just how much sense would it make if, in order to fix the problem, you had to pull over to the side of the road, turn off the vehicle, wait a few seconds, and then turn it on again? That would make no sense at all. Yet that's pretty much exactly what computers ask you to do. And you just grow to accept it, as if there's nothing more natural in the world than constantly restarting your computer.

Right now, I own three different computers. I bought my first computer, a Compaq, for $3,000, in 1997. It became obsolete in 1998. I had a second computer built for me by a friend, at a cost of $1,200, in 1999. It became obsolete in 2001. I had another friend build ANOTHER computer, at a cost of $1,300, in January of 2003. It's scheduled to be obsolete sometime next year. Is there any other appliance in the world that has to be replaced with such maddening frequency?

My current computer runs Windows XP, which is a major improvement over its Windows 95/98/2000 predecessors in that it only requires 1/3 the restarts. My major gripe with Windows XP is that, just about one month ago, these annoying pop-up windows started appearing on my screen. They were much like the pop-ups that appear while surfing the Web, except that these pop-ups seemed to originate somewhere deep down in the Windows operating system underbelly.

The Windows pop-ups carried many of the same messages that traditional Web-based pop-ups entailed. I could grow my penis should I so wish. I could grow flowing locks of hair. I could seduce women instantly. All of these hold a certain amount of charm, I suppose. But the one pop-up that seemed the most odd asked me whether the pop-ups annoyed me (well, duh!) and offerred a $25 product that would stop them forever. Rather than cough up cash, I hit the Web, and with a few quick searches, I found out how to disable the embedded messaging system. No big deal, but again I have to ask, what other daily item rudely interrupts your routine to ask you whether you want a bigger penis? What if every time I turned on the oven to cook a pizza, it asked me if I was happy with the size of my manhood? I don't need such probing questions from a major appliance.

As computers become more and more advanced, and more and more complicated, it's almost a certainty that their level of irritation and annoyance are bound to increase exponentially. Given that, I just don't have the time or the energy to be upset with other aspects of daily existence. Forget road rage; I have a computer to worry about.

Posted by Ryan at 11:16 AM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2003

When Fate Intervenes And Shames

When Fate Intervenes And Shames You Deeply

During my second to last year of college, I lived in a party house in Winona known as the Shark Shack, so named because we had a life-sized plastic hammerhead shark suspended on one wall, in addition to a plastic marlin on another and what I think was a large walleye on yet another.

I shared the Shark Shack with four other roommates, and we held a steady stream of weekend parties, using the proceeds to pay some of our rent and other expenses. The Shark Shack was one of the cheapest places I ever lived, which was appropriate considering that it was also a giant shithole. Despite numerous attempts at carpet cleaning, if you walked through the living room with your socks on, chances are the bottoms would be jet black after a few trips to the kitchen and back. You just learned to wear shoes at all times.

During our Halloween Party, I hooked up with a girl (who we'll call Michelle) I met while sitting on the steps, drinking a beer. We talked for a little while, and then we started making out, and then she suggested we go up to my room, and I agreed wholeheartedly. For the next couple of hours, we engaged in certain acts, until her sister knocked on the door and said she was going to a different party. Michelle hurriedly dressed, scribbled her number and address down, and she made me promise I would call. I promised I would call. She then left, and I went back downstairs to re-join the party. I never did call Michelle back, and I didn't think anything of it. It just didn't register that I was being a dickhead. Actually, sometimes when I'm a dickhead even today, it still doesn't register.

The following year, as I put the final touches on my journalism degree while working as a grunt reporter for the Winona Daily News, I had all but forgotten about Michelle. That night had simply hazed over as one of many party evenings, and she had become just another fading face. Besides, I was happily involved in a year-long relationship with a different girl, Jerusha, so I didn't really want to dwell on past one-night stands.

Well, the Winona Daily News decided to assign me a special article in which I would go behind the scenes of the Miss Winona Pageant. At that time, Winona had spawned the last three consecutive Miss. Minnesota winners, so they thought a story about the Miss Winona Pageant would be interesting. I, of course, couldn't imagine a more stellar assignment than reporting backstage, all day, from a beauty pageant. Holy boners, Batman!

Then, I read the contestant list. There, midway down the list, was Michelle's name. Oh, crap. There's an onion in the ointment. Well, maybe, I thought, she wouldn't recognize me. Maybe, I thought, she didn't remember the Halloween party. Maybe, I thought, I could run away to Alaska.

I arrived at the pageant in the morning and introduced myself to each contestant, taking extra care to shake hands with Michelle last. I was astounded when she didn't seem to have any idea who I was. I was also monumentally relieved. From that point on, my job was easy. I wrote page after page of notes while joking with the contestants and having just a grand old time. It was a great day.

That night, with the pageant underway, I hovered backstage, interviewing the women as they prepared for their talent segments as well as when they came off the stage. As I peered through the curtains, watching one of the women onstage, I felt a soft breath in my right ear, and then Michelle, who had snuck up behind me, whispered "You never called me back, you fucker."

I wanted to die. At that moment, I felt just despicable. My face was red and hot with shame. As I stood backstage in inky blackness, Michelle's voice could just have well have been the voice of every girl I ever made-out with at a bar or party and said I'd call but never did. I just wanted to leave the pageant, leave Winona, and never go back. Man, did I feel like shit.

Michelle went on to win Miss. Congeniality.

It was, without a doubt, the most difficult article I ever wrote.

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

Ashleigh Banfield On Rotation Erik,

Ashleigh Banfield On Rotation

Erik, over at Intellectual Poison, steered me to this speech by uber-hottie anchorwoman Ashleigh Banfield. Now, although I don't dispute Erik's claim that Banfield is very attractive (I would very much consider it an honor if my private parts were to intermingle with hers), I do take umbrage with some of her claims. As Erik pointed out, Banfield gets pretty longwinded during the speech, so I'll only excerpt those passages that stuck in my craw, thus becoming craw stickers.

That said, what didn't you see? You didn't see where those bullets landed. You didn't see what happened when the mortar landed. A puff of smoke is not what a mortar looks like when it explodes, believe me. There are horrors that were completely left out of this war.

Let's play a little game. Let's pretend that you're a reporter. You have the option of being embedded with a superior fighting force that is well organized, well trained, and it is widely believed that this fighting force is going to cut through the enemy like a magnified sun beam through a June bug. Or, you can tag along with a loosely organized band of fedayeen thugs who very likely would not hesitate to strap you to a bunker if it meant buying time. Which would you choose?

Granted, Banfied makes a valid argument that we don't see ALL the carnage left in the wake of a successful strike, but at the same time I think it's a stretch to assume that, just because we only see the puff of smoke of a mortar round, we're not conscious of the fact that the impact is more severe than it appears. I, for one, watched the news and realized that every explosion probably resulted in the death of an enemy soldier and possibly a civilian from time to time. But, hey, if Ashleigh feels it would drive the point home further by planting herself at the coordinates of a mortar strike, more power to her. Hope her flak vest is nice and tight, because shrapnel doesn't distinguish between enemies and reporters. Finally, if you really had a hankering to see the civilian death toll, Al Jazeera kept on top of every dead civilian it could find and photographed them several times from several angles for full shock and effect. This is the age of the Internet. You can find anything anywhere if you take the time to dig.

The other thing is that so many voices were silent in this war. We all know what happened to Susan Sarandon for speaking out, and her husband, and we all know that this is not the way Americans truly want to be. Free speech is a wonderful thing, it's what we fight for, but the minute it's unpalatable we fight against it for some reason.

Of all the craw stickers, this stuck in my craw the most. Here we have a journalist, someone supposedly at the top of her game, apparently oblivious to the true meaning of the freedom of speech. Okay, class, can anyone see the flaw in Ashleigh's statement? Anyone? Yes, Mr. Rhodes, go ahead.

People didn't fight against the first amendment and free speech because we found Sarandon's mindless babble unpalatable. People spoke against Sarandon because her mindless babble was unpalatable. People used their right to free speech to rip on Sarandon's use of her right to free speech. We were fine with Sarandon speaking out, hell, more power to her. But, that doesn't mean we necessarily liked what she had to say. Celebrities are a funny bunch. They get to be famous because we lowly plebes elevate them there, yet they seem absolutely offended if we disagree with them, so they yell and scream that they're being denied their right to free speech. No. THIS is being denied their right to free speech: "Shut the hell up or we'll stick red pokers in your nostrils." So, I'm going to have to insist that Ashleigh consult the Constitution so she can brush up on her first amendment rights, both as a journalist and as a U.S. citizen.

Well, the message before we went in was actually weapons of mass destruction and eliminating the weapons of mass destruction from this regime and eliminating this regime. Conveniently in the week or two that we were in there it became very strongly a message of freeing the Iraqi people. That should have been the message early on, in fact, in the six to eight months preceding this campaign, if we were trying to win over the hearts of the Arab world.

Banfield conveniently seems to forget that the war in Iraq was actually just the next step in the continuing war on. . . anyone? Yes, Mr. Rhodes, go ahead.

The war on terror. Remember that? It was a U.S.-declared war on terrorism that included striking at regimes that harbor terrorists and terrorist sympathizers. True, we used WMD as the primary justification to try and convince the ineffective bureaucratic monolith that is the U.N. to please, please, please let us invade Iraq. Few people seem to remember, however, that the U.N. seemed unimpressed by evidence that Iraq supported terrorism. So, we went ahead without the U.N., and lo and behold we found terrorists, and terrorist training camps, and links to Al Queda.

As for Ashleigh's assertion that Iraqi liberation should have been our message early on, let's just assume for a second that Colin Powell went before the U.N. security council and asked for Iraqi liberation. Let's see, the U.N. Human Rights Commission is chaired by Libya, and Cuba is a longstanding panel member. How impressed do you think the U.N. would have been by a plea for Iraqi liberation? Exactly. Let's move on.

So I wasn't the least bit surprised to see these marches and these pilgrimages in the last few days telling the Americans, "Thanks for the freedom to march to Najaf and Karbala, but get out." You know, this wasn't that big of a surprise. I think it may be a surprise though to the Pentagon. I'm not sure that they were ready to deal with this many dissenters and this many supporters of an Islamic regime, like next door in Iran.

It's good to know Ashleigh is so enlightened as to the mindset of the Pentagon.

When you hear the word Hezbollah you probably think evil, danger, terror right away. If I could just see a show of hands. Who thinks that Hezbollah is a bad word? Show of hands. Usually connotes fear, terror, some kind of suicide bombing. If you live in the Arab world, Hezbollah means Shriner. Hezbollah means charity, Hezbollah means hospitals, Hezbollah means welfare and jobs.

Hezbollah, the organization, also means intolerance of the Jews, refusal to recognize anything but a pure Palestinian state WITHOUT Israel, and a drive to sacrifice its ignorant adherents through suicide bombings to scare Israelis and elevate their cause to the 6 p.m. news. In Ashleigh's world, Al Queda shouldn't be feared because, translated, it simply means "The base." That's so innocuous, it CAN'T be dangerous.

And that's some of the problems we have in dealing in this war in terror. As a journalist I'm often ostracized just for saying these messages, just for going on television and saying, "Here's what the leaders of Hezbullah are telling me and here's what the Lebanese are telling me and here's what the Syrians have said about Hezbullah. Here's what they have to say about the Golan Heights." Like it or lump it, don't shoot the messenger, but invariably the messenger gets shot.

Ashleigh is so damned cute when she whines. Listen lady, if you choose to say something, you had best be willing take responsibility for your flapping gums. Just as I take full responsibility for any D&D gamers who think I'm a prick for making light of their hobby, so, too, should you not be taken aback when you assert that Hezbollah "ain't so bad."

We hired somebody on MSNBC recently named Michael Savage. Some of you may know his name already from his radio program. He was so taken aback by my dare to speak with Al -Aqsa Martyrs Brigade about why they do what they do, why they're prepared to sacrifice themselves for what they call a freedom fight and we call terrorism. He was so taken aback that he chose to label me as a slut on the air. And that's not all, as a porn star. And that's not all, as an accomplice to the murder of Jewish children. So these are the ramifications for simply being the messenger in the Arab world.

I'm curious here, whether Banfield, who really gained national attention due to her ground zero reporting heroics on 9/11, considers the hijackers of those flights "terrorists," or "freedom fighters." I'm just curious. Calling her a slut may be harsh. Calling her a pornstar may be harsh. An accomplice to murder? Perhaps not, but by being a media cheerleader for groups that promote indiscriminate killing, you kinda have to wonder whether she's serving their hate-filled agenda more than she realizes.

>From there, Ashleigh pretty much goes on a whine fest about American attention spans, chastising us for not taking more of an active interest in Afghanistan and the unfolding situation in Iraq, augmenting her point by explaining that her beloved cable news channel has plummeted from millions of daily viewers to a few hundred thousand. Read her whining if you wish, or don't, it's entirely up to you. Myself, I'd rather watch her on TV. She's at her best when you can look at her.

Posted by Ryan at 11:16 AM | Comments (0)

May 05, 2003

Introducing. . .Fly Guy! So,

Introducing. . .Fly Guy!

So, it's 4:30 p.m. on a Monday. You're bored, but you don't want to do any more work. What do you do? What. Do. You. Do. I suggest you go here.

Posted by Ryan at 04:10 PM | Comments (0)

Putting A New Spin on

Putting A New Spin on Tornadoes

I often wonder if the mass media newsrooms of today all feature huge wall calendars that roughly outline when the usual destructive weather patterns are expected to roll through. The hurricane season is marked in red, likely winter storms are tentatively shaded blue, and the tornado season is highlighted in gray. When a slow news day rolls around, news agencies scramble to the wall calendar to see if there's any weather-related news they can fall back on.

DAN RATHER: What's all this crap I'm supposed to read about a little boy being reunited with his sister after a week at band camp? What kind of news is this?

NEWS EXEC: That's all we got, Dan. It's pretty quiet out there today.

DAN RATHER: Oh, come on! Surely a Palestinian blew himself up or something. There must be a looting update out of Iraq.

NEWS EXEC: Nope. I guess we could consult the weather calendar. *tears down April, revealing May tornado season*

DAN RATHER: Huzzah! It's tornado season! Of course! Get me updates, man. I need updates.

NEWS EXEC: I'm on it! Hot dog! Kansas, Missouri and Tennessee were all hit: 32 killed, eight missing! Let's get you in make-up, Dan!

I certainly don't mean to make light of tornadoes, or hurricanes, or heavy downpours, but something on the Fox News Web Site (motto: Get Lost liberals; You're Not Wanted Here!) made me pause. Their lead item showed a picture of a destroyed section of a town (I'm guessing a trailer park), and the story headline was a quote from a resident: "It Was Absolutely Terrible!"

Really? A tornado was terrible? Who would have thought? Just once I'd like to hear a resident say something like, "Wow! That was fucking awesome! There was all this wind and noise and twirling and swirling, and there was the whooshing and howling and the mmm--GLAvin!"

But beyond that, I find it odd how journalists writing about weather events feel compelled to so liberally use hyberbole and personification. Consider the Fox News example:

PIERCE CITY, Mo — A swarm of tornadoes tore through the Midwest Sunday, killing at least 28 people in Kansas, Missouri and Tennessee.

Now, just for the record, tornadoes don't swarm. Bees swarm. Locusts swarm. Tornadoes are not riled up by a curious eight-year old poking a stick into a cloud hive. Tornadoes tend to coalesce at random spots at random times rather than attacking large areas to protect their queen tornado.

Houses across the region were knocked off foundations, trees were uprooted, power lines littered roadways and travelers were forced to huddle in underground tunnels at Kansas City's main airport.

This is actually a standard sentence interjected into all tornado-related news stories. Writers simply fill in the appropriate blanks. For exampe: "Houses across the region were knocked off foundations, trees were uprooted, power lines littered roadways and travelers were forced to huddle in ___________ at ____________ main ___________."

I really can't belittle any more of the article, mainly because it talks mostly about how people were killed and injured, and that's not all that funny.

Posted by Ryan at 11:17 AM | Comments (0)

May 02, 2003

Worst. Blog Post. Ever. I

Worst. Blog Post. Ever.

I used to play Dungeons & Dragons. Upon learning this, many people who are in awe of my stature as a smoking hot specimen of male hunkiness will shake their heads in disbelief. But, it's true. I used to be a D&D geek.

It gets worse. My friends and I were such D&D geeks, we actually built a D&D playing room in my friend's basement. I should note here that the time frame I'm referring to was between my 9th grade and 11th grade years. I mean, it's not as if I gave up D&D just last week or anything.

Our D&D playing room came complete with huge posters of wizards and dragons and skeletons, as well as drawings of knights and weapons I artistically scribbled on the walls. We had a vast collection of player manuals, monster manuals, maps, dice, and binder after binder of D&D characters. We played D&D after school and during the weekends. We were a sorry bunch, even though it was kind of fun in a weird sort of way we could never put our fingers on.

Well, I haven't played D&D in over a decade, but on Wednesday night, after driving up to the cities to spend the evening with Melissa, I was reminded of my geeky heritage and I was confronted with the harsh reality of what my life could have been.

Melissa and I went for a long walk that night, strolling by stores on our way to Ciatti's restaurant. Adjacent to Ciatti's was a game store, and we decided to explore the shop before strapping on the feed bag. This place had every role-playing game you can imagine, from standard D&D, to Star Wars, to Star Trek, to Lord of the Rings. And there were comic books, and their were miniature models of Tolkien's Middle Earth. I mean, this place, by its very smell, stirred my inner geek. It was right out of the Simpsons. Even the guy behind the counter resembled the Comic Book Guy, right down to the waddling walk.

But then, the clincher. Towards the back of the store, there were long tables set up, and each table was packed with gamers of all ages playing all sorts of games. It was like some sort of geek casino. It was downright hilarious just how stereotypically perfect the scene was. Overweight men with ponytails were taking on pencil thin, acne-ridden high schoolers, rolling dice and taking every move so seriously it appeared at times that the anxiety would cause 12 major heart attacks throughout the room.

I remember thinking, "This could have been me," like an old drug user who got off the heroin just as his life teetered on the edge, and who now stood in the living room of a crack house watching those less fortunate.

For the most part, gaming like that is pretty innocent, so long as you don't let it consume your existence. But, I get the feeling that more than just a couple of the people I saw on Wednesday night don't have much for lives beyond that game store. Inside, they're gods, supreme rulers of whatever fantasy realm they escape to daily. Outside, however, they sleep on a bed of pizza boxes in their dingy studio apartments, no doubt dreaming of the day their half-elf will finally find the amulet of supreme power that will allow them to be the most powerful entity on Oerth, or wherever.

UPDATE: It's a sad testimony to my short term memory when I can't even remember writing about this exact same thing in December. First, Tim insists that I posted this before, then Linda takes a quote about taped glasses that wasn't even part of this post. So, I sifted through the archives and found almost the exact same post on December 5. My apologies for the repetition. The big difference this time around was that Melissa and I went into the store and perused the offerings.

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

May 01, 2003

When Dodge Ball was Dodge

When Dodge Ball was Dodge Ball c. Ryan Rhodes, Oct. 24, 2001

This column is not about anthrax. While I sat and pondered the topic for this week, I dismissed anthrax both because it’s tough to think up a good anthrax joke, and because you can find out everything you never wanted to know about anthrax pretty much everywhere else. I’m fairly certain I heard Barney the Dinosaur singing a little diddy about anthrax early last week: “Infect you. . . Infect me. . . Infect one more, so now there’s three.”

No, I decided to dedicate this column to the disturbing trend in America’s schools to ban the time-honored grade school activity of dodge ball. Apparently, jittery school officials and parents of less-than-athletic children have managed to curb the dodge ball practice in several grade schools nationwide. This deeply saddens me. The reasoning, according to dodge ball detractors, is that the game instills violence in students and enforces the mentality of jocks versus nerds, with the jocks being those who hurl the balls, and the nerds being those struck by them.

Now, I’m a product of the dodge ball era. What’s more, I’m a veteran of the era when dodge ball was dodge ball, when the game was played with debilitating rubber balls, not the Nerf contraptions of today. We used thick, rubber, half-inflated burgundy spheres that included a slightly raised star pattern, presumably for a better grip. Any face unfortunate enough to come in contact with a high velocity sphere would wear a painful star pattern for several hours. It was generally believed in school yard circles that these balls were originally created as top secret World War II weapons that mysteriously found their way into our classroom toy boxes.

I realize the absurdity of a 26-year-old male invoking the phrase “back in my day,” but back in my day, dodge ball was the passion of the morning and afternoon school yard. Sides were quickly organized through the demeaning but necessary practice of team captains picking members. I can honestly and proudly say I was rarely the last one picked. In fact, I was often in the middle of the pack, which, oddly enough, is where I find myself today. Anyway, I attribute my dodge ball skill to my early realization that it stung like crazy to get hit by an oncoming projectile. Ducking and dodging came naturally after that.

I was also quite good at catching, which was a highly sought after skill because, if someone caught a ball, his or her team was able to reclaim one of its tagged out members, while at the same time disposing of the person who threw the ball. Therefore, I commonly heard the phrase, “We gotta get Rhodes out early.” I hated that.

In addition to the use of rubber weapons of death, my school was chock full of farm kids and kids who developed physically way, way, way ahead of schedule. I knew I was in trouble when lunch boxes included Gillette razors so my buddies could shave at noon. In other words, there was some dangerous muscle behind roughly 80 percent of every hurled ball.

Each game started out tentatively, with no one really wanting to charge the line and throw their ball at a team consisting of well-armed opponents. So, we normally would huddle up and think up a strategy involving the sacrifice of a team member to draw the enemy fire. Usually, the sacrificial lamb would have a name like Erwin, a poor soul who wore taped glasses because he had been nominated for the same task several times before. Poor Erwin.

Once Erwin exited with a star pattern emblazoned on his face, the real fireworks ensued.

There was some real bravery exhibited on the dodge ball field. Team members would sacrifice themselves to save a good catcher, or to simply retrieve a ball bouncing uselessly in no-mans land. The sharp smack and howl of soldiers being tagged by rubber torture devices reverberated throughout the game, and games could last an entire hour if you had good catchers on your team.

I learned a lot by playing dodge ball, namely that I could be smacked in the groin by a ball thrown by someone who professed to be my friend just half an hour earlier. It was a school yard version of the corporate ladder, where you could trust no one.

In addition, after playing dodge ball for hundreds of mornings and afternoons, and getting hit countless times by speeding rubber projectiles, I’m really not that scared of anthrax.

Posted by Ryan at 02:23 PM | Comments (0)
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