August 28, 2003

Credit Cards and Words of Wisdom

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.

Words of Wisdom

"And I looked at him, and I realized that, fuck, he wanted to beat the piss out of me, and that's never a good thing. -- Troy Christianson (college roomate and close friend).

"What you have to remember, Ryan, is that there will always be people who disagree with you. I call those people 'assholes.'" -- Jon Rhodes (my father).

"I just got so flustrated. Wait, is flustrated even a word? Well, damn it, I don't care. I was flustrated." -- Marc Vitse (childhood friend).

"I can't remember why it is that I hate you so much, but don't worry, I'm sure it will all come back to me." -- Ryan Rhodes (speaking to my manager at the time).

"Selma my dear, how are you? Uh huh? Uh huh? Uh huh? Listen, shut up for a second." -- Homer Simpson.

UPDATE: And perhaps the best words of wisdom EVER when it comes to Internet file swapping.

Posted by Ryan at 09:43 AM | Comments (0)

August 27, 2003

A Weekly Window Into Insanity

First, a little background. Back when I worked as news editor for the Stewartville Star, I unwittingly became acquainted with a local crazy who sat in on every school board meeting. And, I'm not kidding when I call this man crazy. Each meeting, he would address the board and spew forth some of the most bizarre, disjointed, meaningless speeches ever conceived by the mind of man. After each meeting, I would practically sprint out of the school to avoid being trapped by the nutball: sometimes I was successful, other times not. He creeped me out. The story was that, at some point in his life, he struck his head with a chainsaw, and if you ever saw the man in person, you'd probably believe it. I sure did.

I continue to write a weekly humor column for the Star, and I get a complimentary subscription as well. For about a year now, the paranoid schizophrenic entity from the school board meetings has found a new venue from which to spew his creepy musings. Each week, he pays $12 or more for advertising space in the Star, and his blurbs run right alongside other, more coherent, ads such as apartment listings and job openings. The poor staff at the Star has had no option but to run the schizo's rants under "Miscellaneous."

So, starting this week, I have decided to reprint the crazy's ads exactly as they appear in the Star. This weekly sojourn into insanity will be dubbed "Schizophrenic Screeds."

So, without further ado, here is this week's installment. *ahem*

MACHEYE. Now for the update on the drought of SE MN for there is no drought. The only thing that can be said is nuclear hot fire blight. The opposite of this is called nuclear cold freeze blight. Now you got the whole story. As far as the master cell of the human body, left shoulder, 2 moles & on 3rd clear mole gives you adrenaline roll back. So now as we look at past wars like the blue and gray Civil War the biggest war now to come will be called Pink Pinion -vs- Green Valley C31. Now for the combinations for Pink Pinion: R13 Fail Command Freeze. Short form: R13FCF.

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

August 26, 2003

Something's Fishy. Oh, It's Me

I'm not an angler. When it comes to fishing, I have about as much skill with a pole as a Republican Guard soldier has with an AK-47. I don't know the correct speed for reeling in lures, and I have no idea how to play the line to give lures a more realistic movement.

So, I fish with worms and bobbers.

Well, that's somewhat inaccurate. I should say that, the last time I fished, which was many, many years ago, I fished using worms and bobbers. And I loved fishing using only worms and bobbers. I loved it because it was so easy.

I was spoiled because my aunt and uncle had a house on one of Minnesota's not-so-famous Crow Wing Lakes, a collection of lakes strung together by, you guessed it: the Crow Wing River. The only mentionable aspect of the Crow Wing Lake #? was that, according to local legend, a meteor splashed down in it sometime in the 1980s. I don't know if that had anything to do with anything, but it sure sounded kinda cool.

The other metionable aspect about the lake was that it was alive with bluegill, perch and assorted other fish that are known for their tendency to bite on anything you offer on a hook. Seriously, I caught fish using corn, hotdogs, and chunks of fried chicken. Now that I think about it, the state fair food vendors are all excellent potential bluegill bait outlets. Overall, though, my bait of choice was nightcrawlers.

There were walleye and northerns, too, but those fish were just too finicky. I preferred the instant satisfaction inherent in bobbing for bluegills. Drop your line, pull up a fish. Drop your line, pull up a fish. You could set your watch to it. Fishing off my aunt and uncle's dock, I think, built up, in my mind, a sense of entitlement when it came to fishing, and I'd start to get impatient if more than four minutes passed without a nibble.

Fast forward to last Saturday afternoon, when my friend Marc and I decided to do some fishing at a local reservoir known for bass and bluegill. Now, the bass end of things didn't interest me. They're too smart to get caught and I'm too stupid to catch them. But bluegill? Now there's a fish I can catch.

Of course, seeing as how I haven't gone fishing in just about forever, I had to buy a pole. A trip to Gander Mountain underscored just how in-depth fishing can be. They have poles for EVERYTHING. Poles for panfish. Poles for icefishing. Poles that specifically cater to your nationality. I'm pretty sure they had Polish poles, so if you ever have to buy a Pole a pole, you can go to Gander Mountain. Tell 'em Ryan sent ya, even though they'll have no idea what that means.

I opted for a $20 pole that came with a reel and a small tackle box full of assorted tackle, so it was a pretty good deal. Granted, I have no idea what spinners and jigs are for, but at least I had some. Appropriately armed with fish enticing equipment, we set out for the reservoir (Chester Woods Bear Creek Reservoir, for those of you familiar with the Rochester area).

Out on the canoe, setting up my trusty pole, I was reminded of one of the more gruesome aspects of fishing: tearing a worm in half. I used to think nothing of it. You just grasp the worm somewhere in the middle, and give a tough quick tug apart. Mission accomplished. You decide which end you want to skewer on the hook and drop the discarded end back in the styrofoam container where it writhes and twists and spews blood and an unknown yellow ooze all over its intact brethren that have yet to be split. Like I said, I used to think nothing of it, but now apparently I do. Granted, I got over it after the third bifurcation or so, but it still creeped me out for some reason.

I learned rather quickly that the reservoir bluegill are a far more particular lot than their brothers living up north in Crow Wing Lake #?. Despite a thick, juicy, recently-yanked-apart worm right there for the taking, they weren't all that interested in the offering. I tried different bobber depths. I tried casting out to areas beyond the canoe. I even tried swearing at the finicky fish. What was their fucking problem? Don't they recognize a fucking free meal when it's offered? Do they fucking think worms grow on trees and then magically cut themselves in half and then mysteriously hover right in front of their noses? Do they. . .

The bobber went down. Oh my God! Oh my God! What do I do?! What do I do?! Well, you overreact, of course. I yanked the line to set the hook so hard, the fish's skeleton was probably on the verge of coming out of its mouth. I always wonder what the fish thinks when the hook jams them in the lip.

FISH: Huh, a worm. A worm that's cut in half and coiled around a strange metal object. I know this looks too easy, and maybe a bit suspicious, but I'm a fish, so I don't think in suspicious terms. I'm going to eat this worm before somebody else does.

*chomp* *yank*

FISH: Ahhhhhhh! What the fuck!? The worm! It's evil! It has a sharp tooth! Wait a minute. . . I'm being pulled around by some strange force! What kind of sorcery are you up to worm!

WORM (dazed): Don't ask me. I was just laying there eating newspaper and dirt, when suddenly I was ripped in half, stuck on a hook, and dropped in the water to drown. The way I see things, I'm having a hell of a lot worse day than you.

FISH: But, if you're not doing this, who is?! Ahhh, it's a giant hairless monkey-like creature! Not that I know what monkies even look like, but I've heard tales.

Or. . . something like that.

So, there I was, eye to eye with my bluegill catch, confronting the other harsh reality of fishing: removing the hook. You see, although bluegills may appear pretty helpless out of the water, they're armed with some of the sharpest, pointiest, skin peircing fin quills ever to adorn a fish. Great care must be taken to comb back the dorsal fin so you can get an appropriate grasp on the fish. The problem is that any grasp you apply to a fish is tenuous at best, owing to a particularly slimy exterior. The fish will take advantage of this by lulling you into a false sense of fish complacency, acting all dead in your hand until just the right moment.

That moment comes when your attention is focused on prying the hook out, at which point the fish will violently spasm, momentarily giving the fish enough wiggle room to redeploy its spiny dorsal fin and stab all of your fingers at once. It's a pretty tricky maneuver, and it happens. Every. Damn. Time. Without fail.

Come to think of it, I can't understand the appeal of fishing at all. Lousy fish.

Posted by Ryan at 04:13 PM | Comments (0)

Where Is The Money? Who Cares? Fix The Problem.

Reader Joey B asked me to look into the fascinating world of a missing $1.1 trillion bit of government mis-dollaring, or whatever made up word you want to attribute to it. Being the curious fool I am, I looked into it as asked.

First and foremost, it should be noted that this isn't an actual news story. Rather, it's an item from, which also features such noble petition campaigns as "Remove The Republican Burka," and "Petition in favor of a dog park in Vallejo." In other words, this is a forum for moonbat ultra left AND right wingers, and people with way too much time on their hands.

But, getting back to the supposed missing $1.1 trillion dollar thing. About the only useful link on the page, led me here, a housing and urban development (HUD) report that outlined the why's and wherefore's for accounting adjustments totalling $59.6 billion, a substantial amount, to be sure, but nowhere NEAR $1.1 trillion. Then, if you look closer, you realize that the page provided stops at page four of the HUD report. In order to see the actual reasons for the deficiencies, you have to go here. For the person, or persons, who authored the petition, this is referred to as "selective listening," paying attention only to the facts that most support their cause.

Although the HUD report doesn't, and can't, go into a detailed item-by-item listing of where $59.6 billion in 1999 actually went to, it does do a fair job of explaining WHY they had difficulty tracking the dollars. Here's the deal, brought to you courtesy of the raking rectal rod of reality: HUD is a huge government department, responsible for a massive amount of building and construction. Given the auditing problems outlined in the report, and the un-godly amount of money the department processes each year, you can kind of see how the dollars slipped through the cracks. Granted, some of the cash may have been pilfered, but the petition makes it seem as if a single fat cat Congressman sucking on a big cigar loaded up the billions in his gilded briefcase and slipped away into the night. Give me a break.

Besides, that only accounts for a drop in the bucket compared to the rest of the supposedly missing $1.1 trillion.

Keep in mind, I do not discount for a second that the U.S. government is a wasteful entity that throws money down the toilet with a flippant attitude that makes Mike Tyson look frugal, and I'm not condoning budgetary malfeasance. However, I do know how difficult it is for me, Ryan Rhodes, to keep track of my own budget, which doesn't exceed $50,000 a year (though I wish it would, 20 times over). Given that, I can understand how the U.S. government loses track of the occasional buck or two, or $1.1 trillion. Okay, that's excessive, I know.

In a report issued by Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.), who was ranking minority member on the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee in 2002, he said "Because of its size and scope, and the terrible way it is managed, the federal government wastes billions and billions of your tax dollars every year. The waste, fraud and abuse reported to the Governmental Affairs Committee each year is staggering. Of course, no one knows exactly how much fraud, waste and mismanagement cost the taxpayers because the federal government makes no effort to keep track of it."

A damning assessment, to be sure, and I don't doubt it. But, here's the deal: how much money do you think would be wasted trying to track down $1.1 trillion? I mean, think about it. Again, you have to remember that the money isn't sitting under couch cushions somewhere. That's an incredible amount of money to track down, and quite possibly most of it found its way legitimately to the hands of companies and individuals who earned it by providing goods or services, but their involvement simply didn't make its way onto the books, because government financial mismanagement is atrocious.

My point is, do you really think it's justified to try accounting for $1.1 trillion in a fruitless endeavor that will probably cost the government half that? All to find money that has already been spent and in all liklihood can't be retrieved. Or, is it wiser to get a petition, or better yet a lobby, organized that will try to address the spending mess in the future?

You decide. I have work to do, because I don't have $1.1 trillion to fritter away. But, you know, if I did, this blog would be WAY cooler.

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

August 25, 2003

accidents Happen, So Long As They Keep Happening To Other People

I had a great idea last night. Despite sweltering temperatures hovering near 100, and despite humidity that could single-handedly keep Lenin's remains soft and pliable, I still decided to go for a run. I decided to run because I like to punish my body.

I crossed the busy road near to where I live, and I started a nice leasurely lope down the sidewalk, en route to my typical 5 mile jaunt. Just as I was about to settle in to my standard pace, I noticed a yellow Jeep Cherokee roaring up the busy road, rapidly overtaking the dark minivan in front of it. Suddenly, the dark minivan changed lanes (the road is a four lane), revealing a small car in front of it pulling into a driveway. Well, the stage was now set. I had a small car pulling into a driveway, with its ass end sticking out into the street, and a Jeep Cherokee moving at Mach 2 directly behind it.

"Hey," I thought, "I think they're gonna. . ."


The collision sounded like a cannon going off, and it looked pretty damned nasty from my point of view, so I sprinted back across the street to ensure that everyone was okay. The smaller car, loaded with four older folks, was pretty much missing its trunk after being rear-ended, and the two ladies in the back seat were brushing shattered glass from their hair. Everyone was wearing their seatbelts and, upon asking if everyone was okay, they assured me they were. On to vehicle number two.

The driver of the Jeep was dazed and bleeding from his left eye, owing to his forehead getting up close and personal with the steering wheel. Summoning my latent Red Cross first aid training, I tried to get him to sit down on the grass and not move. One thing they don't teach in first aid is how to deal with a young, know-it-all, bone headed male who refuses to fucking sit still. A quick perusal of his vehicle revealed an open 12 pack of Miller Lite. My assessment of the situation was that he was pretty much fucked.

Okay, everyone was up and around and spooked like horses during a thunderstorm. I needed a phone. The old driver of the rear-ended vehicle had one, as did the boneheaded young man bleeding from his eye. I instructed the bonehead to call 911.

"Uh, no man," he said, "I gotta call my girlfriend, because this is her car."

Jeez. Priorities.

So, the old driver used his phone to call 911, while the bonehead argued with his girlfriend about the crumpled Jeep, which had a stuck horn that was blaring in a most monotonous and annoying fashion. I noticed that the rear-ended vehicle was slowly rolling backwards back onto the busy street, prompting me to quickly slam on the parking brake.

As things settled down a bit, I took a closer look at the people involved in the accident. I was both amused and embarrased for one of the old ladies, who had a most noticeable damp spot on her pants, indicating a bladder release at some point during the collision. Or perhaps after. You can never be sure about bladder releases.

Then the circus began. Two police cars roared to the scene, as well as a fire truck and a first response vehicle. The shock and surprise on everyone's face gave way to a shaking release of relief and "it could have been so much worse." My role in the whole thing was nearing its end. I had rendered what aid I could, which was pretty much none, so now I just had to give the police a quick run-down of the accident as I saw it, which was pretty straightforward. Then, I was free to go.

I felt somewhat guilty leaving the scene after my debriefing, but there was really no more reason for me to be there. So, I went back across the street and continued with my run, which was the most sweltering hot exercise I think I've ever endured. Shit it was hot. I should have stayed at the accident and saved myself dehydration.

Posted by Ryan at 10:36 AM | Comments (0)

August 22, 2003

Prepare Yourself Now, For A Faceful of Cheese

Able to ask probing questions better than Larry King. More insightful than an X-ray. Able to leap tall buildings with a single bound. Okay, that last one really doesn't apply, but it's still, once again, time for The Friday Five's evil doppleganger, The Cheddar X, to raise its head and belch a loud, cheesy, smelly belch. So, let's begin.

1. What's your worst alcohol related experience?
Let us journey, you and I, to a time nine years ago. Ryan Rhodes was 19 years old, and he thought himself to be as invincible as pretty much every 19 year old does. I was attending a weekend party in LaCrosse, Wis. with several buddies, and the beer and hard liquor were flowing freely. Then, the munchies hit, and everyone was talking about how great some Taco Bell would taste. I decided to surprise my friends by sneaking off and buying a buttload of burritos and bringing them back to the party.

Ah, but I was drunk. Nay, wasted. And, LaCrosse is not a city that can be easily navigated when one is stumbling stupid. Oh, and driving drunk is monumentally idiotic in its own right. But, what did I care? I was invincible, after all.

About 40 minutes into my journey, I was lost on some unknown road heading well away from LaCrosse, and flashing lights were in the rearview mirror. I remember feeling a touch of relief knowing that I was going to be pulled off the open road, because by that time I was driving with one eye closed to prevent drunk double-vision.

The officer asked me to perform a slew of roadside human tricks, and I refused to do any of them, because I knew I'd fail and I didn't want to embarras myself any more than I already was. So, out came the breathalizer, which I was willing to do, and I blew a .17. Off to jail I went.

At the jail, I was processed, which included a more accurate blood draw test, which upped my BAC to .247. To put it mildly, I was bombed. Of course, none of my friends knew what happened to me, and I had no idea who to even call, so I sat in jail until 4:30 p.m. the next day, playing solitaire with a deck of cards that consisted of two match books that had been artistically altered to serve as the missing ace of spades and the jack of diamonds. I also read from some really bad fantasy paperback.

I haven't gotten behind the wheel after drinking since. Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid.

2. What's the absolute dumbest thing you've done?
See answer to Question #1. Also, detonating a grenade in my backyard. Oh, and shooting myself in the foot with a B.B. gun.

3. What is your biggest crossroad in life? That is, what choice, action, non-action most brought you to where you are instead of where you might have been?
Deciding on a college major after three years of floundering. I went from half-heartedly going for an English major/history minor with a teaching certificate to a mass communications/journalism major/history minor, and I took to it like a duck to water (with a few interesting adventures along the way).

4. Who are your favorite bloggers and why?
Plain Layne, for her honesty, stellar writing, and her ability to make me stop and think about things I normally wouldn't stop and think about. Daintily Dirty, for her ability to irritate the living shit out of me by standing by political idealogies that are totally opposite of my own (and she's also an entertaining read). Intellectual Poison, because he's a lot like me, and he says "fuck" a lot. Instapundit, because he links to everything I want to find. A Small Victory, because she always conducts cool poetry contests and her comment section is one of the livliest and entertaining on the Web. And pretty much everyone else linked over there on the right, for reasons too varied to go into in depth here.

5. What's your best example of ironic justice?
Mike Tyson.

6. Which is more futile, the war on drugs or the war on terrorism?
The war on drugs. At least the war on terrorism gets results. And, tearing down the death-cult fanatical breeding ground that spawns terrorists is far more important than ensuring that Sir Puffs-A-Lot isn't smoking it up from a skull bong in the privacy of his home and ordering Dominos.

UPDATE: As an addition to #6, I give you this article. Was the battle against the KKK futile? Of course not.

UPDATE: Futile? No fucking way.

Posted by Ryan at 10:56 AM | Comments (0)

August 21, 2003

Iraq Rant Ahead. Depart Now If You Wish

Let us turn now to a Newsweek report that, if taken at face value, makes it seem as if the terrorists of the world are winning and, even worse, are geniuses. Just an opinionated aside on my part, but loading a cement truck with explosives and detonating it outside of an unprotected U.N. compound does not, in any way, shape, or form, constitute the work of a genius. But, anyway.

Before reading this, I did a little background checking on the author, one Joshua Hammer. Mr. Hammer, it turns out, doesn't bring a particularly unbiased eye to his stories. Despite being a former hostage of the militant Islamic group Fatah, he remains a sympathizer to the Palestinian cause, so much so that he prefers to refer to suicide bombers as "martyrs." In other words, he basically supports terrorism, albeit a very specific sect of terrorism. Whatever. He thinks strapping on a bomb and blowing up a bus full of innocents is justified, which is a telling backdrop for this article about the recent U.N. bombing.

The late afternoon attack on United Nations headquarters marked the deadly low point in a week of setbacks to the United States-led effort to pacify and rebuild Iraq. At least 20 people died and scores were injured when a suicide bomber apparently drove a cement truck packed with explosives past U.S. military checkpoints and smashed into the side of the hulking white headquarters, marked by the familiar blue U.N. flag above its main entrance. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan called the attack an act of "unprovoked and murderous violence."

Bias check. Ah, "deadly low point," and "week of setbacks." Listen, if you truly want to call yourself a journalist, you have to be able to resist the temptation to editorialize like that. Granted, the U.N. bombing isn't a cause for celebration, but it's not like the whole of Iraq is a seething hotbed of maniacal militants geared up to blow up cement trucks. Pacification efforts have been successful, but you rarely hear of the success stories. I suppose it's par for the course to paint a black shadow against everything the U.S. does, because that sells magazines, after all.

Among the dead: special envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was holding a press conference when the blast buried him under a pile of rubble. Coming in the wake of a string of other attacks—another American soldier killed yesterday by a bomb in northern Baghdad; the main pipeline transporting oil to Turkey blown up at the weekend by saboteurs near Tikrit; a water main, also in northern Baghdad, destroyed on Sunday, cutting off water to nearly half a million people—today's assault underscores again the immense difficulties faced by coalition forces in their attempts to create order out of the post-Saddam vacuum. It belies repeated claims by U.S. chief administrator L. Paul Bremer III and other officials that life in Iraq is rapidly returning to normal. The blast will also undermine efforts by the coalition to restore basic services to the country—electricity, oil distribution, phone services, water—because those efforts are largely dependent on the creation of a secure environment. The attackers, whose apparent aim is to undermine the American-led recovery effort and turn Iraqis against the occupation, have struck their most significant blow yet against an increasingly shaky U.S. administration.

Gloom and doom, and gloom and doom, and gloom and doom. Here's a thought, though. What does it say about the attackers that, in order to upset the rebuilding effort, they're willing to destroy their own country? They're willing to sabatoge a water main to make 500,000 fellow Iraqis miserable. In the world of the mass media, this somehow constitutes a genius strategy. In my world, this just strengthens my mental resolve that we should stay committed to rebuilding Iraq. As for creating a secure environment, it should be underscored that the U.N. requested that the facility be less guarded. So, the U.S. is somehow responsible for a security failing for a building that the U.N. requested less security for. Sounds fair to me. Whatever.

At a gathering point of relatives, journalists and curious onlookers, two women screamed and wailed beneath a fierce sun; the husband of one, a clerk for the United Nations Development Program, had been working on the second floor when the bomb went off, and had not been heard from since. Moments later, the women caught sight of the man limping toward them across a field that divided the crowd from the U.N. headquarters; he had suffered only minor injuries. The women reached across a coil of barbed wire toward him, but were driven back by American soldiers, who said they had orders to keep everyone behind their lines.

Okay, so, first the U.S. is accused of not providing enough security, and now they're being accused of providing too much security in the wake of a terrorist attack. You gotta love how Hammer wraps his criticism in the nice human interest angle. How dare the soldiers keep such a tearful and joyous reunion from happening!

Ambulances continued to carry away the injured for the next two hours, and a trickle of people with minor injuries, many of them splattered in blood, drifted out, ambushed by the dozen or so journalists who had gathered at the scene.

See, now, to me the important word here is "ambulances." Apparently, ambulances are operating in Iraq. Despite all the "chaos" of Iraq, they're able to operate ambulance services. Sounds like an ignored success story to me. Granted, they may be military ambulances, but then I suspect Hammer would have said they were military ambulances to augment his biased point that the rebuilding is a failure ("they don't even have their own amulances running yet!").

Faced with another catastrophic failure of their security system—one that will almost certainly come in for a major review in coming days—American officials attempted to show a brave face.

How's that for a big splash of biased editorializing? I hate to repeat myself, but remember that the U.N. mission in Baghdad repeatedly rejected U.S. security offers, despite warnings that soft targets would likely be hit, and refused to take even the most common-sense recommended precautions. But, don't take my word for it, take U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard's: "Security around our location was not as secure as you might find at the U.S. compound, and that was a decision we made so the offices were available to the people." Oh, the offices were available all right, just ask the atomized cement truck driver.

"I am absolutely certain that instead of running and cutting the United Nations will remain," Bremer said shortly after today's blast. "We have to do our best to find these people before they attack to deal with them, and we will." Bremer's resolve may be no match for terrorists who have already demonstrated an ability to strike at will.

Yay for the terrorists! Yayyyyyy! *sarcasm* Strike at will my ass. They struck an unprotected facility because they're too weak to strike anything else. To hear Hammer tell it, you'd think the terrorists are winning, and that their cause is a just one. And, boy, that pisses me off.

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

August 20, 2003

And From The "Well, No fucking Shit" World Of News Comes. . .

Bored Teens With Cash A Drug Risk

UPDATE: Salam Pax on the recent U.N. bombing in Baghdad: I am plunging into a fucking depression, do we have a future? is this country going to be hijacked by shit extremists who want to prove a point?

Not if coalition forces have anything to say about it, and they do. For those asshats out there crying for the immediate return of the soldiers in Iraq, and those decrying the ongoing cost of the war, I kindly ask you to stop flapping your gums. Yeah, it's going to cost money, and yeah, it's going to cost lives, and yeah, it's going to take time. What's your point? We're in this for the long haul because it's the right thing to do, no matter the cost.

Posted by Ryan at 01:34 PM | Comments (0)

You Lousy Worm

According to Norton anti-virus, even after a LiveUpdate, my work PC is not infected by the SoBig virus, but you'd never believe that if you were to look in my Lotus Notes inbox. When I came into work this morning, there were 65 variantions on the worm theme awaiting me.

First and foremost, I'm receiving the virus, which is to say poor unsuspecting souls who very stupidly executed the virus on their machines have unwittingly become virus e-mailers simply by virtue of how the lousy worm propogates itself. Sometimes, the virus comes through intact as an attachment. Other times, the virus is removed by virus blocking this or that, resulting in an empty shell of an e-mail.

There are, however, unnerving indications that my system may be infected, even though I never, as far as I remember, executed the virus. Apparently, my e-mail address here at work has been busily sending out the virus. This I don't understand. All indications show that my computer is not infected, yet I'm getting bounced back e-mails from recipients who are refusing to open my e-mail because it contains a virus. I did not send e-mail to these people, and most times I have no idea who the fuck they are. But there, plain as day, in the old "sender" information header, is my work e-mail address. How the hell is that possible?

To all you virus and worm authors out there, just let me offer up a heartfelt "fuck YOU!." I mean it. Really.

Posted by Ryan at 09:57 AM | Comments (0)

August 19, 2003

August Drought

We're officially enduring a drought here. There are many indications that we're in the midst of a drought, with the most obvious being a conspicious lack of rain for over a month. Another indication is the dry, brown grass overtaking every lawn that lacks a diligent owner spritzing water on it every night.

Over the weekend, I actually saw a farmer inspecting dirt in his field, rolling the dusty dryness back and forth between his hands and letting it dribble through his fingers, as if by massaging the dirt, he could somehow bring it back to life. The fields still look good, overflowing with tall stands of corn and bushy beans, but there's an ominous feel in the baking air that says if we don't get some sort of relief rain soon, autumn will be a bleak one for farmers.

It's not all bad, though. While golfing with my father Sunday afternoon, I hit the longest drive of my life, thanks primarily to the ground that may just as well be concrete. I hit the ball well enough to begin with, but then it just rolled, and rolled, and bounced, and rolled. It was amazing. The hole was 375 yards long, and I was about 10 yards off the green when the ball finally stopped rolling. I'll never hit a ball that far again. Thank you, drought. Thank you.

On a totally unrelated note, I have a new officemate. After a year of having my office all to myself, I'm kinda bummed to have to share again, particularly with a woman who blows her nose as frequently as this one does. She sounds like a whale coming to the surface to breathe. Other than that, she seems nice, though she a tad too chatty right now. We shall see.

On another unrelated note, my girlfriend left this morning for a week in Kentucky. A full week without sex. Whatever will I do? This will be my own, personal August drought.

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

August 18, 2003

Give Me Something To Bitch About

It's Monday, so I'm full of unfocused ire. Therefore, I need a focus for my ire. Let's see here. . .

Ah, I see that the morally bankrupt columnist Maureen Dowd (motto: Your quotes are as good as doctored) has a new item up at the New York Times about blackouts, and Enron, and sci-fi movies, and terrorists and. . . shit, this woman really needs to learn how to focus.

Batteries Not Included


Klaatu barada nikto. I couldn't help but flash on the 50's sci-fi classic "The Day the Earth Stood Still," watching New York and other cities plunged into sweaty darkness when the 50's equipment on the power grid gave out.

That's the movie where Michael Rennie, as the superior alien, and his silver robot, Gort, land their spaceship on the Washington Mall. Mr. Rennie ends up shutting down electricity on earth — suspending elevators midskyscraper, turning off TV midshow — to get skeptical earthlings to listen to his message. (Stop fighting among yourselves or we'll destroy your puny little planet.)

Yep. Every good column starts off with a TWO PARAGRAPH recitation of a 50s sci-fi classic. Other columnists would use that valuable lead paragraph time to, oh, I don't know, make a fucking point.

New York took on a retro tone Thursday, gamely going back to batteries, relying on ice blocks to cool food and transistor radios to hear news. Without a blow-dryer, the usually sleek CNN anchor Paula Zahn was relegated to bedhead waves.

This is the first of MANY jokes that fall flat. I swear, Dowd's frequent attempts at humor are often so bad, you'd think she was channeling the spirit of Milton Berle.

TV reporters offered New Yorkers tips. Be careful that your candles don't tip over. But unplugged Gothamites, busy using cigarette lighters to find their way out of subways, had no TV's on which to hear the tips. (Except the paranoid rich, who partied in Westchester with backup generators. Once, private jets were chic; now you must have private juice.)

So, apparently, Dowd has a problem with the rich. How dare they have money! She's particularly pissed at those rich people who have the forethought to *gasp* have generators. Did you also notice how she jabbed a finger in the side of pretty much every New Yorker, chastizing them for their reliance on electricity, as if a sprawling metropolis should somehow be able to function solely on campfires and handwarmers? Dowd just sounds cranky that she doesn't have as much money as she'd like to have. Here's a tip, Maureen, write something of quality for a change.

Residents of Iraq and India, interviewed on television, seemed shocked to learn that the most technologically advanced nation had an electrical support system so rickety it is "third world," as Bill Richardson put it. (Indians call their underperforming electricity "bijli," rhymes with "Gigli.") Steamed Iraqis offered us tips, including: Sleep on the roof and take showers. As in showdenfreude?

This is what I don't get. Critics of America, of which Dowd is clearly a member, seem genuinely giddy any time something doesn't work correctly in the United States. A bird poops on a transistor in Ohio, sending a cascade of electrical failure over the northeast, and critics worm their way out of the wordwork just to say "See? America sucks!" and then they duck back out of sight, awaiting the next perceived failure of American dominance. The power grid fails once (forgetting the fact that rioting didn't happen, and power was back up within days), and suddenly America shares parity with third world countries like Iraq and India. Whatever. What-the-fuck-ever.

Thursday reminded us of the tenuousness of our romance with technology; we spend our days using a thicket of high-tech equipment without a clue about how it actually works or what to do when it doesn't.

Oh, come on. Most people drive automobiles, too, without a clue how they operate. I somehow seriously doubt Maureen could tell you how a carburetor works, or if she even knows what a piston is for, yet she drives. Romance with technology my ass.

We have BlackBerrys that are also telephones and Palm Pilots that are also cameras and cellphones that also send text-message mash notes. We take it on faith that the power will come on when we switch on computers to send e-mail around the world instantaneously from our air-conditioned, well-lit, cable-TV-equipped, key-coded, A.T.M.-financed worlds, without ever knowing that our power might be originating in Canada — eh? — or looping eerily around Lake Erie.

I take back my barb on Milton Berle. After reading that, I'm pretty sure even Uncle Milty is rolling in his grave. But, you know, you gotta love how she's chastizing Americans for not knowing where our watts are coming from. Apparently, if you flip a switch, you should drop to your knees in prayer and sacrifice a chicken to the energy gods. Listen, Maureen, I may not ponder where the juice to my computer is coming from every time I log on, but that's not my job. That's somebody ELSE'S job, and I have enough faith in the workings of American industry that the folks responsible for providing energy will provide energy, and I'm also cognizant that, as human beings, they'll drop the ball on occasion.

Now comes news that our foamy lattes are steamed by the antiquated, overloaded system at Niagara Mohawk? I thought we'd already seen the Last of the Mohicans.

It's frightening, really, what passes as an attempt at humor nowadays. It really is frightening.

It was disturbing that the experts were having so much trouble figuring out what happened, resorting to mumbo jumbo about "forensic analyses" and "cascading outages" while lapsing into border bashing about which country's lightning or power surges were to blame.

You know, I've experience a few blown fuses in my lifetime. I flip a switch and, BAM, overload. So, I had to hunt down a flashlight to locate the fuse box and try and ascertain where the failure occured. And that's just one household. So, I'm a little more forgiving than Maureen when it comes to experts trying to troubleshoot where a failure occured in an international power grid.

Holy Enron! Who knew, until 21 plants shut down in three minutes, that they worked on the discredited domino theory? Who knew our grid was more stressed than we are?

Okay, now Dowd's rant is starting to take shape. After an Enron mention, a bash on the Bush administration can't be far behind. Because, you know, the federal government HAS to be somewhat responsible for a blackout. They simply HAVE to be.

When the blackout began, President Bush said he thought the grid needed to be modernized, "and have said so all along." The White House and Congress have been warned repeatedly by engineers that the tattered links needed to be fixed fast.

You would think that the first White House team from the energy bidness — the Houston Oilers, as they were dubbed during the campaign — would have jumped all over that.

It's all about the OOOOIIIILLLLLL.

But all Dick Cheney's secret meetings with unnamed energy officials were, sadly, not about saving us from this day. The White House has been too busy ensuring that Halliburton has no competitors for rebuilding Iraq to worry about rebuilding our own threadbare grid.

Tattered links? Threadbare grid? And here I thought the outage was fixed within days. To hear Dowd tell it, you'd think America has been plunged into perpetual darkness. But, I love how she maintains that Cheney and his cronies should have been working to head off the blackout. Dowd is so disgruntled, the power failure simply comes down to Cheney and Halliburton. Such pathetic myopia can only be rewarded with a roll of the eyes.

Tom Ridge would have been better off fixating on this weakness than playing with his color swatches.

Hey, I'm no fan of Ridge and his color coded alert system, either, but how, exactly, is her responsible for America's power grid and a surge that had nothing to do with terrorism? That's like blaming a highway patrol officer for an airplane crash.

Washington is a welter of blame. Democrats fingered the Republicans for catering to the oil industry; Republicans fingered the Democrats for being cowed by the environmental community. The only illumination in the blackout was this: Pols have been holding the energy bill hostage to their special interests.

Um, no, that's been pretty much common knowledge for, like, forever.

Just when we're feeling vulnerable to terrorists — does anybody believe our ports are secure? — we learn we're also vulnerable to the very system meant to protect us.

Got that? The energy grid is meant to protect us from terrorists. Who knew?

This has got to be giving terrorists ideas as they watch from their caves. Osama may be plotting on his laptop right now, tapping into the cascading effect of an army of new terrorists signing up every time we kill or arrest a terrorist.

Okay, what the fuck is up with that last paragraph? What does that have to do with anything? I imagine Dowd was writing this on a Friday, and it was really close to 5 p.m. She looked up at the clock, realized it was martini time, and hammered out some meaningless blurb about terrorists and Osama and slid the column in just under deadline.

No, Osama is doing no plotting from his laptap, what with him being dead and all. But, that's not the money quote. The money quote is that bizarre thing about terrorist recruitment BECAUSE we're killing and arresting terrorists. Oh, well then, I guess we should just leave them alone.

That's something that's been bothering me ever since we launched this war on terror. Critics keep shouting that waging a war on terror will only beget more terrorism. Puh-lease. The fact is, the critics are shit-assed terrified of terrorists. They don't want to wage war against terrorists because they're afraid of pissing them off even more than they already are. To them, appeasement is the only answer. Appease, appease, appease, and maybe then they won't attack us. Well, that's the type of mentality that culminated in 9/11.

Now, we're taking the war to the terrorists, and we're a better nation, a better world, because of it.

To wash out all that Maureen Dowd, here's some Priya Rai. fucking Priya Rai. Priya Rai is HOT. Priya Rai. Priya Rai. Priya Rai. Priya Rai. Priya Rai. Priya Rai. Priya Rai. Priya Rai. Priya Rai. Priya Rai.

UPDATE: It was inevitable, I guess. The terrorists did it. (found via A Small Victory)

Posted by Ryan at 12:01 PM | Comments (0)

Not Quite Good Enough For Reader's Digest, But Good Enough For Here

Over the weekend, I stumbled by this little anecdote that I submitted to Reader's Digest many, many years ago. I still think it's great.

Fresh out of of college, I was working for a small town weekly newspaper, a job that required a lot of time logged in at the local high school. At 23 years old, I still looked rather young, and was often mistaken as a student, both by the student body and the faculty.

One day, I was sitting in the the school's main office, waiting to conduct an interview with the superintendant regarding the previous night's school board meeting. Several minutes passed, and eventually a student entered the office and sat next to me, sporting an angry, defeated face. Eventually, he noticed me and asked what I was doing in the office.

"Oh, I'm reporting here," I explained.

"I know what you mean," he said, rolling his eyes. "I report here a lot."

Posted by Ryan at 09:25 AM | Comments (0)

August 15, 2003

Suffering From Blackouts, And a Little Friday Cheddar

There's something very eerie about seeing all those pictures of the New York City skyline draped in darkness. No constellation of lights running up the sides of buildings. No indication of life within the walls. Just silent obelisks seemingly indifferent to a lack of energy, while people all over the city stifle their own personal panic at being without electricity for probably the first time in their lives.

Don't worry, folks. It's like camping, er, except I've never seen a campsite with 50 million people. Although, that would be a pretty wicked camping trip.

I'm curious, of course, to see what kind of conspiracy theories arise because of this. It's inevitable, really. People have become so dependent on electricity, they can't imagine a failure in the power grid without cooking up ridiculous reasons for its hiccup. Here's the deal. American power grids are oversaturated, underpowered, and getting older by the day. This won't be the last blackout, folks, mark my words. Best to keep a flashlight and a few porno mags handy.

Ah, but today is Friday, and that means it's time for. . . The Cheddar X

1. How do you relax after a difficult day?
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I go for a run. Tuesdays and Thursdays, I go to hapkido. Pretty simple, really. However, this question reminds me of one of my first real job interviews when I was pretty much fresh out of college. There I was, armed with a mass communications/journalism degree (with a useless history minor), thinking for all the world that I was a hot commodity sure to be snatched up by the workplace, when I got a phone call from the biggest newspaper in the area, the Rochester Post-Bulletin (motto: All The News That The Mayo Clinic Deems Fit To Print).

This was a big deal for me; the chance to work for the P-B right out of college. The only problem was, I was doing a phone interview right after I came in from a run, and I mean RIGHT AFTER the run. No sooner had I walked in the front door, when my mother handed me the phone. So, there I was, a huffing, puffing, wheezing mess of a sweaty young man, trying to fight through a phone interview for a job I was probably very underqualified for. But then, the interviewer asked the question: How do you deal with stress?

Of course, what he MEANT was, how do I deal, internally, with the difficulties and stresses of working under deadlines. In my runner-fatigued and excited mental state, however, what I THOUGHT he meant was, how do I deal with stress EXTERNALLY.

"Oh, I drive around a lot."

BZZZZZ! BZZZZZ! Wrong answer! Wrong answer!

I didn't get the job.

2. What's your favorite form of transportation?
A female on all fours. Did I just type that? No, no, seriously, I would have to say trains. Not the Am-Trak kind of trains, mind you, but the inner-city train/subway systems. Or, at least I liked the ones in Tokyo. They were so alive and romantic, and schoolgirls would pinch my ass from time to time. Ah, Japanese trains, where sexual harassment meets public transportation.

3. What is your worst travel experience?
Well, this is a worst/best scenario, because it was really actually pretty fun at the time, but in retrospect I should have been terrified. My senior class trip to China was just wrapping up, and we were flying from Beijing back to Tokyo on that bastion of airline supremacy, Pakistani Air. Seriously, Pakistan has, or at least they HAD (not sure if it still exists) an airline, and we were on it. As I remember it, it was a conspicuously filthy airplane. To give you an idea, one of the airline discomfort bags in the seat pocket of one of my fellow classmates actually had. . .how shall I put this?. . . residue. . . in it from a previous passenger, and by "residue" I mean the bottom one-fifth of the bag was filled with squishy abdominal discharge. Ah, but there was more.

People still refuse to believe me when I tell them this, but I swear it's true: there was duct tape on the wing. Actual, honest-to-goodness duct tape. I'm not sure what its purpose was, or if it was even serving any purpose at all, but there was an unmistakable square of duct tape on the right wing. All my classmates and I came up with elaborate stories trying to explain the presence of the duct tape. It was a great exercise in creative story-telling.

And then there was the flight itself. Apparently, we took to the air during the one evening of the millenium when all the random winds in the world coalesced at one point on the planet, and that one point was wherever our little duct taped Pakistani airplane wanted to be. Turbulence does not BEGIN to describe the bumping and jostling we endured and the insane ups and downs and tilts and. . . and. . . I'm getting nauseous just typing about it. In other words, we learned rather quickly why there was a goodly portion of residue in the airline discomfort bag.

Of course, as an 18 year-old who couldn't conceive of the possibility of the grim reaper sitting next to me with his scythe at the ready, I thought the flight was super great fun. Me and my fellow classmates had our arms raised in rollercoaster-riding style, thinking for all the world that the flight was an absolute hoot, while all around us people were rocking back and forth and praying and weeping. Wussies.

4. When did you know you were an adult? i.e. what event made you stop and recognize that you were no longer a member of "those damned kids"?
I'll have to let you know when that happens.

5. Why do you blog?
Because I have to do SOMETHING when I'm slacking at work, and solitaire and minesweeper just weren't cutting it any more. Actually, I started because I always wanted to have a personal journal, but jotting with pen and paper seemed boring and unfulfilling, and then Jen offered to create this blogspot template for me, and I've been jotting down things ever since. And I'll continue to do so because this blog has proven to be an invaluable tool for strengthening my writing skills and mining for ideas for columns. Also, it's been crucial for developing my ability to deconstruct arguments with which I disagree, particularly when Jill Nelson ascends her soapbox and spews forth her meaningless blather. There you go, that's your answer: I blog so that I can rip on Jill Nelson. Next question.

6. How does your real life persona compare to your blogger one?
Pretty much the same, except I'm far more coherent here than in real life. In real life, when I try to argue with someone, I tend to trip over my thoughts and my dialogue spills forth in disjointed sentences that I have to reel in try to make sense of.

Posted by Ryan at 10:36 AM | Comments (0)

August 14, 2003

What A Long Strange Trip It's Been

It happens in all relationships at some time, I suppose. Eventually, you find yourself dozing on an inflatable mattress tube, drifting lazily over the surface of your girlfriend's father's backyard swimming pool, while on the patio set nearby, your girlfriend, her father, and her father's new boyfriend engage in animated discussion about new interior decorating concepts for your girlfriend's father's home.

Sometimes, all you can do is float and doze and marvel at the strange journey that is life.

I remember when I first started dating Melissa, like, maybe the third date. She invited me over to swim in her father's pool.

"Her father has a pool," I remember thinking. "That's awesome!"

So, I went swimming with Melissa for awhile, and then she asked if I wanted to take a quick tour of her dad's place. During the tour, I was introduced to her father, and some guy about my age, who I assumed was Melissa's brother or something. Back in the pool, I asked Mel what her relationship was with the other guy in the house.

"Oh, that's my dad's boyfriend."

You know that look you get when confronted with a really tough calculus problem? Yeah, that would be the look I radiated, I'm pretty sure.

Since that time, the reality of Mel's dad's preference for men is just a given. I've listened to Mel talk about her dad breaking up with his longtime boyfriend, and I've engaged in long discussions with her about getting her dad back together with another guy. Any guy. I talk about getting her dad hooked up with another guy the way I talk about getting Marc together with some girl other than Kelli.

But, there's a large part of me that takes exception to her dad's selfishness (not his lifestyle, mind you, but his selfishness), and some of the stories she has related to me about the early days of his coming out just make me cringe with the unfairness he piled on his three daughters.

Consider, for the moment, that he broke his marriage vows to explore his rediscovered homosexuality. Maybe it's because I come from a strong family background. My parents have been married for 30+ years and have endured plenty of hardship, most of all raising me, but they persevered.

There are those who would say that it wouldn't be fair for Mel's dad to have lived a lie. But, if you take the homosexuality out of the equation, he sacrificed his marriage so he could have sex with someone else. That's just adultery. He broke his wedding vows to have sex with someone else. I know, I know. We live in a society that touts over a 50 percent divorce rate, and Lord knows I may not be immune. But, whether you're gay or straight, the same rules apply, and if you break your vows because of an overcharged libido, you're being selfish. Factor in a marriage that features three children, and you're being monumentally selfish.

But, beyond that was her father's behavior after the divorce. With Mel just out of high school, her dad invited her and her sister, Jenny, to go out with him and his boyfriend. What that entailed was a limo ride to the cities to go to the Gay 90s. The limo was packed with strangers smoking pot and drinking and sharing with the girls while her dad and her dad's boyfriend made out in the back. Mel and Jenny couldn't do anything but keep their eyes trained to the front, while Melissa fought back tears. What the fuck was her dad thinking?

Back in May, Melissa decorated her dad's home, buying all the items for his house under the assurance he would pay her back. Months passed, and her dad came up with excuse after excuse why not to pay her back. Until last night.

Last night, in the presence of the new boyfriend, Mel pressed for the money, and her dad couldn't jump up fast enough to pay the check. You know, gotta play the role of the good dad and all. That type of shit just pisses me off. Gay or not, this guy is unforgivably selfish.

Posted by Ryan at 10:29 AM | Comments (0)

August 13, 2003

Cursing The Curse Known As Cursive

I read recently that teachers nationwide are worried that an increase in computer word processors may mean the end of cursive writing, because students increasingly prefer the keyboard to the dizzying loops and swirls of cursive writing. As a former elementary school student who endured the disgusting teaching ritual known as cursive writing, let me just say, "good riddance."

I don't like cursive writing. I have never liked cursive writing. For me, cursive writing always represented an unnecessary and pointless step in the writing process.

I mean, think about it. First, you learn the alphabet, and you learn to painstakingly trace out each letter from "a" to "z," in classic script format, and then you have to be able to remember the differences between capital letters and lowercase letters. I learned how to write my ABCs in kindergarten, and I'm here to tell you that writing out legible script letters using big thick crayons the size of cigars was a cruel introduction to the world of learning.

But, it was necessary, of course, because reading and writing are supposedly important and stuff. So, I played along, mainly because I knew, in a short 23 years, I'd be writing news articles for technology magazines and hacking my way as a marginally humorous columnist. I also knew I was destined to be a smoking hot specimen of male hunkiness. What can I say? I had incredible foresight.

But then, just as I had mastered the entire alphabet and was stringing together words and sentences with relative ease, the elementary school powers that be declared that I and the rest of my classmates had to learn cursive writing. Cursive?

"Oh good," I thought. "They're finally going to teach us some swear words."

Alas, when the teacher went up to the board and started writing out a long example sentence in cursive letters, I realized that cursive and cursing are two totally unrelated concepts.

I never fully grasped the nuances of cursive writing. The capital letter "G," in particular, made no sense to me. Come on! It doesn't even LOOK like a G. And don't even get me started on the funky "Z" or the incomprehensible "J." And, forget the tried and true terms like "uppercase" and "lowercase." No, now we had to understand the concepts of "ascenders" and "decenders," which always made me think of escalators for some reason.

When I think back on it, cursive writing represented the first issue on which I tried to fight the establishment, although I guess it wasn't so much a demonstration of establishment defiance as it was my inability to read my own cursive writing, which was eventually dubbed "Ryan-ese." My cursive writing looked like the work of a toddler scribbling with a Spirograph.

And that was one of the most irritating things about cursive writing: everybody's cursive writing looked drastically different from everybody else's. Reading cursive was hard enough without having to translate someone's unique interpretation of cursive. To this day, I've had trouble reading my father's cursive writing, and he's had 50+ years of practice at it.

Eventually, after a couple of years of forced conformity to the injustices of cursive writing, the teachers gave the students a choice between standard script and cursive and it took me all of three minutes to fully free myself of the shackles of cursive writing, and I haven't looked back since. The only remnant of those bygone years of cursive is my signature, an unitelligle and angry swirl of letters that look like an EKG reading of a patient whose heart is in fibbrilation.

Therefore, I hope computer keyboards continue their assualt on cursive handwriting, if for no other reason but to save the world from ever again having to translate my Ryan-ese. I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

Posted by Ryan at 01:15 PM | Comments (0)

I Was Just Spammed By Howard Dean

Normally, when I'm at work and checking e-mail, I glide over anything that has [ProbableSpam] in brackets. You see, the IBM response to the spam problem is not to block probable spam outright, because Heaven forbid there may be actual e-mail swimming in there. Instead, the IBM spam filtering system is one that allows spam through while telling you that system thinks the message probably is spam. It's a perplexing solution to a perplexing problem.

As I said, normally I just delete something that comes through slugged [probable spam], because roughly 100 percent of the time, it IS spam. Today was no exception. I saw a few messages tagged [ProbableSpam] and I quickly deleted them. But, one stood out. There, in the "sender" information, was the name "Gov. Howard Dean." Hey, I know that name. He was on the cover of both Newsweek and Time awhile back. So, I'm getting e-mail from Howard Dean, who, according to the subject line, wants me to "Join to help Howard Dean take our country back."

Thanks for the invite, Dean, but you just did something that totally exposes how out of touch you may actually be. You see, spam e-mail is despised. Spammers are despised. You, Howard Dean, or more correctly one of your genius promotional lackeys, are a spammer. As Gollum might say, "We hatesssss the ssssspammerssss!"

As a politician, Mr. Dean. . . I'm sorry, GOV. Dean, I'd think you'd be aware that anti-spam legislation is a hot-ticket item right now, and yet here you are sending out spam. For shame. I may revisit the spam later in the day, just to see what Dean has to say, even though I hate to give spam of any kind too much of a read.

For now, let me just say that Howard Dean is a spammer. I hate spammers. Therefore, I must hate Howard Dean.

That's not a good way to get your campaign off the ground, Governor.

Posted by Ryan at 09:45 AM | Comments (0)

August 12, 2003

The Fallacy Of The "Nice Guy"

For two years, two excrutiating years, my good friend, Marc, dated one of the biggest self-absorbed bitches ever to roam the planet. Her name was Kelli, and she lacked, IS lacking, every social grace there is, and she loves herself to an extent usually reserved for divas. To converse with her is to converse entirely ABOUT her, and it only took me three meetings with Kelli to ascertain, without a shadow of a doubt, that she was an uber-bitch, or, as Cartman on South Park might sing: "She's a bitch, she's a bitch, she's a big, big bitch."

Did I mention she's a bitch?

Well, anyway, during their courtship, Marc disappeared. He disappeared from his friends, and he disappeared from his family. He disappeared from everyone of whom Kelli didn't approve. This was a mixed blessing. One the one hand, we couldn't hang out with Marc, but on the other hand we didn't have to deal with Kelli, who, it was discovered almost immediately, was equally despised by all of Marc's friends and family. It wasn't just me. This girl is universally reviled.

Late in their relationship, after Melissa and I started dating, we dropped by Marc's apartment to say "hi." Not surprisingly, Melissa picked up on the Kelli bitch vibe within three seconds of speaking to her. It went something like this: Kelli started talking about herself (again), Marc interrupted to say something, and Kelli smacked Marc in the face with the back of her hand. Hard. Marc reacted much like a dog that had been tapped on the snout, but he didn't say anything.

Marc is a "Welcome" mat. He's a square of old carpet on which you leave your dirty boots. He's a 6'6" giant who hesitates before swatting a fly. He'll do anything for anyone he considers a friend. His friends and family know this, and we go out of our way not to take advantage of his gentle and self-sacrificing nature. Kelli, on the other hand, used and abused his gentleness with reckless abandon, and it pissed me off to no end each and every time I saw it happening.

Kelli wanted rollerblades. Marc bought them for her. Kelli wanted golf clubs. Marc bought them for her. Kelli wanted a new car. Marc made the downpayment and co-signed for it. Even after they finally, FINALLY, broke up, after Kelli decided to break up with Marc because SHE wanted to date other guys (although all evidence pointed to her dating other guys way before that), she continued to live in Marc's apartment.

Marc prides himself on being "a nice guy," which he is, to a fault. But, Marc doesn't see it that way. He thinks being a nice guy to such an extreme is somehow a badge of honor. Fine. Whatever. But, I learned last night that there are limits to his nice guy persona.

Ever since Kelli and Marc "officially" broke up, he and I have gone out for drinks and trivia quite often to reintroduce him to the world he had voluntarily cut himself out of for two years. For the past four months, we've enjoyed more evenings at Buffalo Wild Wings than I can remember. All the while, Marc was covertly still at Kelli's beck and call, going out of his way to do things for her even though they were broken up, even though she was going through more men than Liz Taylor.

On Sunday night, Marc and I were supposed to go out to our usual haunt for trivia and beer, but he cancelled because he was going to hang out with his little nephew and niece. I was actually somewhat relieved to hear that, seeing as how I was still feeling the after effects of Jim's birthday the night before.

Last night, Marc and I did manage to go to Buffalo Wild Wings for Monday Night Football. As we sat there, enjoying ourselves, our waitress, Joanna, came up to us and asked Marc "So, how did your date with the ex- go last night?" It took me all of four seconds to deduce that Marc had been to Buffalo Wild Wings on Sunday night with that THING that masquerades as a female.

I looked at Marc with defeated, somber eyes. He knew what I was thinking, and he tried to defend himself.

"I can't help it if I'm a nice guy. I'm not going to cut her out of my life just because we're broken up. Hey, I'm a nice guy!"

Really? Last I checked, nice guys don't lie to their good friends.

This really pissed me off.

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

August 11, 2003

Dealing With The Setting Summer

I've had a very busy summer. That's a good thing. But, it's also a bad thing. On the one hand, being busy translates into a lot of fun, but it also means my summer has gone lightning quick. I'm ready to slow down a bit, put on the brakes and slide back into a life routine, and that usually happens with the onset of fall, when the shorter daylight hours mean a drawn out darkness that is filled with indoor escapes like television and computer games.

Still, summer is the bestest of the seasons, at least for me. I like the warmth. I like the excitement of a looming thunderstorm. I like the smells, the sounds and just the content feeling of summer. Living is easy now, rather than the chilling difficulty of a Minnesota winter, and I just hate to see it waning.

That's not to say I didn't have a good weekend. I had a great weekend. It just hit home last night as I sat on the front steps eating an ice cream drumstick and soaking in the drone of crickets that the summer days are ticking away, and that saddened me a bit. Seasonal depression: every Minnesotan goes through it.

I went to the cities to see Melissa Friday night. I always go there with big plans to eat Thai food and take in a movie and. . . and. . .

Melissa's place just sucks the energy right out of me. It's too damned cozy and inviting. I just want to lay on her comfy couch and not do anything. It's not like my basement apartment, a utilitarian conglomeration of particle board furniture and a dilapidated futon that repels rather than invites. I enter my room and I think "I really have to get out of here and go for a run." Anything to get out of there for awhile.

Melissa and I did, eventually, get up and go rollerblading around nearby Como Lake. Como is a nice park, and it's always alive with people walking and biking and scooping up dog droppings. It also seems that the big pavilion buiding hosts a wedding reception every weekend.

Early Saturday morning, I had to depart to visit my friend Jim in Farmington, about half an hour drive from Mel's place. We were celebrating Jim's birthday, which for Jim meant golfing. Something I've noticed about my golfing ability this year: I've been too busy to golf regularly, and boy does it show. I suck. I can't do anything off the tee. I might as well be swinging a spaghetti noodle tied to a meatball. It's maddening not being good at golf, especially when I made the varsity golf team and lettered in the damned sport my 8th grade year. Since then, I've just become progressively worse.

Still, there were four of us, Jim, myself, Jeremy and Marc, and we had a really good time. I just wish I had golfed better. A lot better. That's all.

After golf, we dropped by a local casino. I figured I was due to pay a little penance for what America did to the indians and I was going to donate $40 or so to them. Ah, but lady luck was shining on me that day, and I left the casino $175 on the up side. It's a funny thing when I'm playing slot machines: I have nothing but doubt and despair as I play, and then suddenly it flashes up that I won 600 quarters, and I initially just refuse to believe it. No fucking way. The rest of the guys all lost money. Not a lot of money. Ten bucks here, 35 bucks there, but they all lost money. Which meant dinner was automatically on me, the big winner, which was fine. Share the wealth I say. The rest of the evening involved the ingestion of copious ammounts of ale and a cab ride back to Jim's where we watched the making of Caddyshack before alcohol-induced slumber carried us away.

Sunday I awoke to a great surprise: the television network Bravo! was airing a West Wing marathon. Jim and I are West Wing enthusiasts of the hightest order, so we sat and absorbed televised West Wing radiation for the next six hours. Bliss. Granted, The West Wing can be a little bit idealistic and sometimes downright sanctimonious at times, but if you're at all interested in how politics work, and you like kick-ass drama, you simply must become a West Wing enthusiast. Particularly in the post 9/11 world. If you watch The West Wing from episode #1 onward, you'll come away with a greater understanding of how the world theater comes into play, especially the Middle East. Don't believe me? Just check it out. You would particularly be enlightened by the episode that deals with "the virtue of a proportional response." Watch it, and ask yourself what, exactly, would be a proportional response to 9/11.

As Jim astutely observed when I posed the question to him, "I'll let you know when we've achieved it."

Posted by Ryan at 12:02 PM | Comments (0)

August 08, 2003

A Little Bit About Ze Ahnuld

I don't undertand the big deal here. So, the bulky one is running for California governor. So what? So are over 100 other candidates, ranging from Gary Coleman, to pornstar Mary Carey to the equally accent-challenged Ariana Huffington. But, I suppose, during a California recall vote, it's destined to become the most entertaining show on earth. Forget Iraq. Ahnuld's in the race.

As a Minnesotan, I guess I'm relieved to see the political microscope shift several states over, rather than focusing on the train wreck experience that was Jesse Ventura. Yes, I voted for him, and yes, I sincerely apologize. I'd sacrifice a goat and dance naked in its blood if it meant forgiveness. Well, that's not entirely true. At the time, with Mayor Quimby Coleman sitting on one side of Jesse, and Grandpa Skip Humphrey sitting on the other, "The Body" honestly did strike me as the best candidate. But then he was elected, and. . . well, you all know what happened then.

I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. After all, I remember, quite vividly, watching in amazement the evening Jesse won the governership. There he stood, basking in all the glory you'd expect from an underdog who won an election, and somewhere in the audience, you could hear someone yell the most important question asked of every politician:

"What kind of beer do you drink!?"

I'm not kidding here. I heard it, and the two other people in the room with me heard it. That's when it struck me that the next four years weren't going to be a normal four years.

Such was our cross to bear for electing a celebrity, someone who viewed themself as so infallible, everyone else in the world was totally wrong, even when they were totally right. He was a lunkhead. We elected a lunkhead. A monstrous, self-absorbed, self-promoting, egotistical, fight-picking lunkhead. And it was a damned long four years.

I'm not saying Schwarzenegger is Jesse 2. No. But, Californians should be wary here. If they vote simply via name recognition, which is most certainly going to be the case, they'll discover, as Minnesotans did, that the man they put in office is a political lunkhead and his blunders will be made 8,000 times as bad because of the celebrity spotlight shining on him.

I do think that Arnold will suffer one of the same debilitations as Jesse. Namely, he'll deal with criticism in entirely the wrong way. Rather than try and deal with a problem, he'll go on the defensive and end up in a drawn out and embarrasing shouting match, much like Jesse and the jackals. Arnold, like Jesse before him, isn't used to problems that don't simply go away on their own. Arnold did "Junior," which was a waste of 35 mm film, but all he had to do was lay low and wait until a better script came along to fix the damage. For celebrities, dealing with issues is usually just a matter of waiting until the bad press blows over.

Not so in politics. In politics, the enemies are relentless and are more persistent than telemarketers, and their criticism will come at Arnold on a 24/7 basis, and I don't think Arnold's celebrity ego is prepared for the perpetual assault. Right now, he's enjoying what he's used to enjoying: the attention of the nation. That's just your run-of-the-mill celebrity hubris. These are the good-old days. But it won't be long before Arnold has to answer some truly tough questions, and he won't be able to simply flex his way out of them. He'll be toast. But, he still could get elected through name recognition alone. So, the lesson Arnold will learn is: "I don't have to answer the tough questions after all." And that's when hi-jinx will ensue.

Stay tuned, folks. Arnold may not be Jesse 2, but I think it could be pretty close.

I wonder what kind of beer Arnold drinks.

Posted by Ryan at 12:27 PM | Comments (0)

August 07, 2003

A Bad News Week For Pets

Readers, beware! If you own pets, their lives may be in jeopardy from some of the most unlikliest of places.

If you own small dogs, you had best keep your eyes on the skies for hawks with a hankering for canine, and if you own kittens, you had best be wary of unscrupulous snake owners itching to feed their slithering serpents a little feline cuisine.

Yes, it's time, once again, because I have no idea what else to write about, to bring you big and important news items that weren't deemed big and important by big and important media outlets. This big and important columnist, however, deems otherwise.

Imagine, if you will: you're walking your chihuahua, perhaps named Manuel, through a New York City public park on a glorious summer morning. Manuel is enjoying the outing, when suddenly you catch movement from the corner of your eye, and your eardrums are pierced by the screech of a hawk in mid-hunt. In a flurry of feathers and yipping chihuahua, you realize your furry companion is being attacked. Sound impossible? In New York, nothing's impossible.

According to an August 7 report out of New York, officials on Wednesday grounded an anti-pigeon campaign employing the winged predators after one of the birds attacked a Chihuahua in Bryant Park.

Now, I understand that pigeons can be a problem, particularly in a sprawling metropolis such as New York. But, I'm just not sure whether the problem warrants an anti-pigeon campaign that employs specially trained hawks. Rather, I think it would be far more effective if, say, the city were to train a pack of particularly tough, and swift, chihuahuas to take care of the city's pigeon problem. That way, you don't have to worry about chihuahuas being attacked by hawks, and you're still on top of the pigeon problem. Plus, it would just be super cool to see a chihuahua take down a pigeon. How cute would that be!?

The program, considered a success since its April launch, was suspended Wednesday afternoon. Biederman said a final decision was expected by the end of the week on firing or rehiring the hawks, although city Parks Department officials called for its end.

Firing or rehiring hawks? What kind of severance package do they get? Do they have their own union to protect themselves from unfair city salary actions? I think somebody should be looking into this more closely. Would somebody PLEASE think of the hawks here!

Ah, but let us now leave New York and travel overseas to Norway, a country that just doesn't get mentioned much in the news nowadays. So, when they do get mentioned, you know it has to be something big and important, and probably involves snakes and kittens.

According to an August 6 Reuters news item out of Oslo, a reptile expert said on Wednesday that cat owners, who hoped kittens they had to give away would go to a good home, were outraged to find that some were ending up as dinner for pythons and other snakes kept illegally as pets.

I should note here that I don't really understand the appeal of keeping a snake as a pet. Quite frankly, it creeps me out just a little bit, and here's why: snakes don't DO anything. They don't fetch. They don't respond with affection when you scratch them behind their ears. . . er, ear holes.

They just lay around, flicking out their tongues, waiting to be fed. And that's the problem as I see it. Snake owners like owning snakes primarily for the novelty of watching them eat. They have a morbid fascination with watching a snake unhinge its jaws, swallow a mouse, and then watching a mouse-shaped bolus slide down inside their pet's cylindrical body. I mean, ewwwwww.

"Some people get a kick out of seeing a kitten being eaten alive by a snake," biologist Kees Ekeli, director of the Bergen Aquarium in western Norway, told Reuters. "It's cheap and it's a good size for a medium-sized snake. It's heart-breaking for the people who have feelings for their kittens."

Gee, do you think?

But, you know, that raises an interesting moral issue. Why is it more okay to feed snakes mice and rats, but kittens are considered taboo? Discuss. I'll be here when you get back.

In the meantime, I'm going to go out and buy a chihuahua and teach it to hunt pigeons, because, you know, that would be so cute! So is Amanda Wenk. Amanda Wenk has HUGE tracts of land. Here's Amanda Wenk.

Also, I think Giselle is hot. So is a Brianna. And here Brianna . Hey, Huh, Brianna again. Amanda.

Posted by Ryan at 12:02 PM | Comments (0)

August 06, 2003

Come To The Dark Side, Britney. AND SHOW US YOUR TITS!

Apparently, all of the prognostication regarding how long it would take Britney Spears to shed her clothes was dead on. According to reliable sources, the dethroned princess of pop, who substituted tittilating on-stage gyrations in lieu of actual talent, has posed naked for some magazine known as British Elle.

Whether Britney actually bared full breasts isn't all that clear, but it's a sure indication that her fall from grace is in full tilt. You can judge the career slide of most female musicians according to their level of exposed flesh. Christina Aguilera is a notable exception, because she actually has talent and a damned fine voice, so when she goes gallavanting off in her pornstar dress code, I'll give her a slide.

Ah, but Britney is just an airbrushed screeching harpy with nothing left to sell the finicky public except for her body. Like Samantha Fox before her, she's poised to give the world a fading glance at her physical attributes before her next album goes to pot faster than Snoop Dogg.

Just some advice to newbie starlets who are on course to shine brightly in the sky and then flame out (yeah, I'm looking at YOU Kelly Clarkson): the music buying public won't turn out in droves to buy your crappy CDs just because you stripped down and showed the world your bodily goods. You see, we buy music we like to listen to, and only a small cadre of confused young men going through a difficult patch of puberty will actually buy your music because they like to hear your voice as they frantically masturbate to your nude photos.

If you want to be a respected artist, get back into your clothes and then go back to the recording studio. Write some songs that don't suck and sound like the poetic musings of a half-deranged hyena. Take a page out of Liz Phair's book, or Shirley Manson's, or Delores O'Riordan's. These are women who can write AND sing, even though it can be argued that Shirley Manson is a scary-looking women (though I still think sex with her would be a hoot).

So, bad luck to you Britney Spears, and good riddance. May your clothes continue to fall floorward in direct proportion to your sliding celebrity status. The trashy slut image has been done many times before by musicians far better than you, and they still dropped from sight regardless. It works for a few (although if Madonna drops her trousers ever again I think I'll blow a multitude of chunks), but mostly it's a last-ditch attempt to salvage a doomed career while making a few buck on the side.

Now, if you don't mind, Britney, just show us your tits and be done with it.

But, please, don't sing.

Posted by Ryan at 01:58 PM | Comments (0)

August 05, 2003

A Big Bad Bowel Movement

I had a phone interview scheduled this morning with an IBM manager to talk shop about a new offering that he is itching to get some coverage on. That's fine. No big deal. I looked up his contact information, picked up the phone, dialed the appropriate number, listened to the phone ring, and. . .

Almost the exact instant he picked up the phone, at almost that EXACT instant, my stomach made an angry gurgle that sounded as if a pit bull had been turned loose in my intestines and was chasing a rabid squirrel. Before the sound even subsided a little bit, my large intestine made a massive and overdue delivery to my colon. I mean, this was sudden, and the situation went from uncomfortable to truly drastic in less than five minutes.

But, there I was, stuck on the phone, trying to jot down what the guy was saying, trying for all the world to write down direct quotes while all the while my mind was screaming "What are you doing!? Don't you realize you have to shit bigger than at any time in your life?! Don't you realize how dire the situation is?! Get off the phone, you fool! Run, do not walk, to the bathroom! Right! Now!"

But, this was a very busy man I was speaking with. Setting up the interview had been tricky. Plus, I didn't know how to just tell him I had to go while he was in mid-sentence. And he had a lot to say, and by that I mean he just wouldn't stop talking. He droned on and on and on, while I sat, butt cheeks clenched, tears welling up in my ears because now things had simply started to just plain hurt.

I tried several times to head off the conversation, I tried to steer him in a direction that would lead to a prompt end to the call, but he just kept going down different paths, almost as if he secretly knew I was just nanoseconds away from blowing a mud cake that would coat the entire office. The pain and discomfort were becoming unbearable.

Finally, FINALLY, I was able to get off the phone, after the most excrutiating 28 minutes in recent memory. I shuffle stepped out of the office and started a mad dash for the bathroom, only to discover that. . .

The cleaning ladies were in the bathroom! They had that stupid fucking yellow "Do Not Enter" sign propped up outside the door. Un-fucking-believable! The world was conspiring to make me crap my pants.

I shuffled back to my office and grabbed my badge. I then gingerly made my way down one floor to a different bathroom, which, upon entering, I discovered that every damned stall was occupied!

Except one.

One stall door was ajar, indicating vacancy. My glorious anal release was just moments away from being realized. I entered the stall and closed the door behind me. That's when I noticed the flusher on the toilet was non-existent. There was no flusher. It was a flusher-less stall. There would be no flushing being done this fine day.

No matter. This was an emergency situation, after all. In a truly dextrous display of de-pantsing, I shimmied my jeans down at about the same instant my sphincter finally just gave up the clench. I won't disgust you with the details, except to say I felt as though the Dairy Queen soft-serve machine was stuck on high.

Of course, since there was no flusher, I had no choice but to leave my handiwork for someone else to deal with.

Hey, it's not MY job.


Heh, over 800 visitors to this site today already, and it's not even noon yet. Tara Reid's breasts are apparently still a hot commodity on the Internet today.

Posted by Ryan at 04:29 PM | Comments (0)

Jerkin' Around

I like beef jerky. I mean, I won't go out of my way to buy the stuff--I'm not addicted to it or anything--but if the opportunity presents itself, I'll gnaw on a stick of dried and salted beef.

Yesterday after work, for example, I discovered a stick of jerky in the arm-rest compartment of my car, put there by a fabulous girfriend who thought I would enjoy it. And, you know, after work last night, a stick of beef jerky was almost exactly what I wanted.

Now, I didn't realize until yesterday just how much meaningless blather is stamped on your typical stick of beef jerky. For example, the stick I ate on the way home yesterday said it featured "Real Beef." Well, now, that's a relief. Here I thought I was chomping on a cow impersonator, perhaps a pig that happened to be a master thespian and fooled the USDA into believing it was actually bovine.

The thing is, because it was stamped "Real Beef," that must mean there are beef jerky enthusiasts out there who are truly worried about getting sub-par beef jerky, perhaps cut with 30 percent donkey. In the cut throat world of beef jerky competition, companies will resort to some pretty underhanded dealings to get their dried meat sticks to market.

Examining the wrapper further, I saw that my beef jerky was also "Peppered." Well, that's good news, I guess. But, really, what does that even mean? In beef jerky parlance, I gather that "Peppered" means that it has a kick to it--that it's hot. Well, then, just say it's HOT. Peppered doesn't tell me anything.

All this got me to thinking: what other words are stamped on beef jerky? My inquisitive nature brought me to the local Kwik Trip, where I perused the assorted beef jerky offerings. Let me just assure you here. . . after a few minutes staring at racks of competing beef jerky brands, the term "jerky" starts to lose all meaning. I started wondering what the hell "jerky" even meant. So, to refresh my memory, I consulted a dictionary.

jerk·y2 ( P ) Pronunciation Key (jûrk)n. Meat cured by jerking. Also called charqui.

Okay, like, ewwww. But, wait a minute, maybe I'm being too narrowminded about what they mean by jerking. Let's find out.

jerk2 ( P ) Pronunciation Key (jûrk) tr.v. jerked, jerk·ing, jerks To cut (meat) into long strips and dry in the sun or cure by exposing to smoke.

Ohhhhhhh, that type of jerking. Never mind.

But, getting back to my Kwik Trip beef jerky perusal. First and foremost, what the heck does "Kippered" mean?

To cure, by splitting, salting, and smoking.

Ohhhhhhh, okay, gotcha. But then, you really can't call it jerky now, can you? Wouldn't it become "beef kipper" or "kippered beef." I mean, calling it beef jerky that's been kippered seems like overkill, really. First, they dried it, then they smoked it, then they salted it and smoked it again for good measure.

There is a lot more to relate, but I just realized I have a bunch of work to do today and I must get to it. More jerky-related nonsense coming later.

Posted by Ryan at 10:39 AM | Comments (0)

August 04, 2003

She Didn't Give You Gay, Did She? Did She?!

Melissa, my girlfriend, the woman with whom I have considerable coitus, is really attuned to gay culture. I guess that's understandable, being that her dad is gay and all, and her good friend in her interior design classes at the university is very gay and dons women's clothes when the mood so strikes him. So, yeah, she probably understands gay culture far better than I do.

Invariably, her preoccupation with all things gay tends to spill over into my little world, and I find myself watching programs that I would never, ever, ever, ever watch unless Melissa has control of the television remote.

Consider Friday night.

As we lay in bed, with Mel happily clicking through the channels, she discovers. . . Bravo. Now, Bravo was featuring a Cher concert. Okay, you know, whatever. Maybe I've just been stupid all these years, but I didn't realize, until that very moment, that Cher is considered an icon of gay culture. I mean, this is Cher we're talking about, a women who thinks a spool of thread constitutes a wardrobe. How could she be an icon of gay culture?

"How can you not know that?" she asked me. "She changes outfits after two or three songs because, if she doesn't, some of her gay fans will actually complain."

I did not know that. But, now that I think about it, it makes a lot of sense when you think about Jack on Wil and Grace and his obsession with all things Cher. I guess I just never made the connection.

Following the Cher concert, Bravo rolled out one of their newest programs, Queer Eye For The Straight Guy. Now, seeing as how I was fresh off my first televised Cher concert ever, I thought I had filled my gay quota for the evening, but Melissa insisted. I don't know what to tell you about QESG, except to say these guys were REALLY gay. I think it would be interesting to see what those five guys would think of my living establishment, food tastes, and wardrobe. It would probably take four full episodes to straighten me out, er, so to speak.

By this point in the evening, I had pretty much absorbed as much gay television radiation as I thought possible, but then Bravo rolled out Boy Meets Boy. And. Mel. Insisted! Soooo, I watched this bit of homosexual reality television in which a gay guy has to pick from a group of 15 elegible men. There is a hitch, of course, and that hitch is that, amongst the gay men, there are a few straight men trying to pass themselves off as gay in a bid to win fabulous cash and prizes. This little fact is unknown to the guy to the choosing. He thinks all the men are gay. Reality TV fever. Catch it!

So, of course, Melissa and I sat there for a full hour trying to guess which men were gay and which were straight. It was a very gay night.

Would I recommend any of the shows we watched? Actually, yes I would. QESG is a laugh-out-loud scream, and Boy Meets Boy has the whole "is he or isn't he" thing going, which helps to strengthen your gaydar. However, I can't see myself tuning into the shows unless Mel is with me clicking the channels. I'm just not into gay culture quite as much as she is. Perhaps that's for the best.

(by the way, extra credit points if you can tell me where I conjured the title for this blog entry)

Posted by Ryan at 05:08 PM | Comments (1)

Remembering Mario

No, this isn't some reminiscing about my old Nintendo that came with Super Mario Brothers, so if you came here looking for tips on how to beat Bowser on the last level, I suggest you go elsewhere.

My senior year of high school spent in Tokyo was a jarring wake-up call to the real world. Far removed from the sheltered environment of Harmony, Minnesota and my class of 43 students, my Tokyo class consisted of over 100 students from 46 nations around the world. Japan offered enough of a culture shock; experiencing the cultures of 46 countries at once was a rude awakening.

To say I was homesick that first month (and even beyond) would be a severe understatement. Nothing, NOTHING, made sense. Even though the students at St. Mary's International School were supposed to speak only English on school grounds, practically everyone just glommed together in their own cliques and chattered away in whatever language suited them. It wasn't uncommon to hear a mix of Japanese, English, Korean, German and Arabic coming from the same conversation. I couldn't just jump into a conversation that interested me, because I couldn't understand what the hell anyone was talking about.

Beyond the language barrier were the athleticism and intellectual barriers. Here in the U.S., we put a lot of emphasis on athletics, with academics seemingly taking a secondary roll. At St. Mary's, the reverse was true. My classmates were some of the softest wussies (albeit incredibly intelligent soft wussies) you could ever imagine. Here in the U.S., I was a really good wrestler. In Tokyo, I was unbeatable. In the U.S., I was the third ranking academic kid in my class. In Tokyo. . . well, let's just say there was a long line ahead of me in the grade department. There were students who would ace their exams and get all the extra credit to boot, resulting in, and I'm not kidding here, a grade point average of 4.5. Unreal.

I was absorbing all this newness, and I was pretty much resigned to the reality that friendships would come hard, and I was also pondering a plane ticket home (where things made sense), when I almost had a nervous breakdown, in band of all places. I played trumpet, and I played fairly well. However, band in Tokyo was radically different than band in Harmony. As I sat there, sweating through sheet music that everyone seemed to know but me, the instructor, Mrs. Webster, started quizzing students on something called music theory. I didn't have a fucking clue what music theory was, but everyone else seemed to be having no trouble whatsoever answering the questions. And she was getting closer and closer to calling on me. When she did eventually call on me, I was a wreck. I just started throwing out answers in the hope that one would be correct. "A Sharp?" "B Flat?" "C Major?" "D Minor" "Major Major?" "Sergeant Major?" "Lieutenant Sergeant Major B Minor First Class?"

Finally, Mrs. Webster moved on, leaving me clinging to my last shred of sanity, like a tornado that ripped through a trailer park. I was shattered, and I remember shaking uncontrollably. In retrospect, it was no big deal, and was really quite funny. But, as a 17 year old drastically out of his element, it was a morbidly humiliating experience. At the end of class, I was determined to just walk out of the school and just retreat back to the apartment and never come out again.

"Hey! Hey, Ryan, wait up!" called a voice behind me as I walked absentmindedly out the door after class.

I turned around to see a fellow trumpet player, Mario Arias, running to catch up with me. I knew him only by his face, but I also knew he was one of the more popular guys in my class.

"Listen, man, she took a lot of us by surprise with all that music theory shit," he said, and I realized then just how transparent my anguish must have been. "Don't sweat it, okay. This place takes awhile. It's pretty fucked up."

First off, it was nice to actually talk to someone who was speaking just English. Second of all, it was super nice talking to someone who knew how to swear, and swear really well. Just that brief back-and-forth gave me the strength to get through the rest of the school day, and over the next couple of days, Mario and I talked more and more.

I'm not sure why Mario reached out to me. He was one of the more popular kids in the class, from what I could tell, and he had no shortage of friends. I think he saw a lot of the difficulties he endured when he first came to St. Mary's a couple of years ahead of me. Whatever the case, he became a friend at the moment I most dearly needed one.

Mario claimed dual nationalities; American and Malaysian, if I recall correctly. His father was an ambassador in Tokyo and he lived in the ambassadorial complex in the nightlife capital of Tokyo, Roppongi. Through Mario, I became friends with a couple of Canadians, Jeff Wilson and Tyler Finch, a big Swedish kid, and fellow wrestler, Jens Larson (who was also the most dominating wrestler I'd ever seen), another wrestler, Hashi Riegler, and several others.

Mario, though, was the best friend I had there, and I never appreciated how valuable of a friend he was until years later when I happened to leaf through my old yearbook. I remembered when we last spoke, just hours before my plane whisked me back to Minnesota. It was a hot June day, and we had just stopped at a local convenience store for a pop. I was so eager to get on my plane, it didn't really register that I would probably never see Mario again, the guy who, many many months before, had literally saved me from insanity.

We shook hands, Mario and I, and then I caught the walk light and crossed the street. The last I saw of Mario was him giving a quick wave from the curb before turning around and walking the other way.

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

Monday, Monday

I got into work today, all prepared to set the world on fire and get that big important article done by Wednesday, and not eat or drink anything until I get it done. And then I find out IBM moved the announce date back a month. So, my Monday all of a sudden became substantially less critical. Ahhhhhhhh.

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

August 01, 2003

And Now, A Much Needed Fisking Of A Fatally Flawed Rant

Via A Small Victory, I was pointed to this little bit of piss and vinegar spewed forth by one Hesiod. Let us commence with the dissection:

TIME FOR IRAQ-WAR LIARS TO STEP UP TO THE PLATE: Do you REALLY care about human rights and deposing a "brutal dictator, or are you just lying your pathetic asses off about it to cover up for your otherwise bankrupt political and moral ideology?

Thanks for asking. Yes, as a matter of fact, I do care about human rights and deposing a "brutal dictator." And, my otherwise bankrupt political and moral ideology actually consists of overflowing coffers. What I feel Hesiod was doing here, rather than asking a question, was screaming into the wind because he's lost patience with everything that has gone right for the Bush administration. Like him or loathe him, you have to admit the President has the political Midas touch going for him right now.

"Top U.S. arms negotiator John Bolton described North Korean leader Kim Jong-il on Thursday as a tyrannical dictator who lived like royalty while jailing thousands and keeping many hungry in a "hellish nightmare."

I think we all know that answer to that question, don't we?

You will make all kinds of excuses for NOT invading and deposing Kim Jong Il.

"He's got nuclear weapons."

"He can wipe out Seoul."

"He's just bluffing."

"He's bottled up by South Korea and China."


A ham-fisted segue into a rant to be sure, but I'll play along. Hesiod's "blah. . .blah. . .blah" dismissal belies the fact that he himself gave very telling reasons why we're walking on political eggshells in North Korea. Whereas we went after Saddam BEFORE he had nukes, Kim Jong Il apparently very much has them. You don't amass 100,000 troops for an invasion of NK and not expect some sort of nuclear problem. No one, for a second, thinks Kim Jong Il is bluffing, however, which is why we're taking a far more cautious approach. No, he's not bottled up by South Korea, but he sure as hell is bottled up by China. If old Kim keeps up his rhetoric, it's only a matter of time before China knocks on his door telling him to keep his voice down. But, let's see where Hesiod is going with this.

The bottom line is, you don't care about human rights abuses. You never cared about human rights abuses. And you never WILL care about human rights Iraq, or anywhere else.

It's a figleaf. A beard. A phony affectation of human concern...solely adopted for rhetorical purposes. [And Lord knows, it's never manifested itself with respect to the majority of Palestinians, among others].

Okay, so if I gather Hesiod correctly here, his beef is with human rights or something, even though he's taking his own sweet time getting to the point. Of course, as with any truly bleeding heart humanitarian, Hesiod is apparently in love with the Palestinian cause, because the Palestinians are such an oppressed and subjugated people. And they're such nice and stable people, who send their children off to camp, and even show them how to use guns and bombs. Ah, but let's allow Hesiod to continue with whatever it is he's trying to get to.

So...I'd appreciate it if you lying sacks of shit would stop PRETENDING you care about the Iraqi people, when clearly you never did, and still don't.

Okay, so, before getting to whatever point he's trying to get to, he wants to call me a lying sack of shit first and make broad generalizations about who I do and do not care about. I'll allow that, although I'd sure like it if he maybe would, I don't know, get to the fucking point.

Now, I know the response from the Bush Fedayeen will be that I'm some sort of a hypocrite on this issue.

Let me address that little canard right now.

I am AGAINST military action to overthrow Kim Jong Il. I think, from a practical standpoint, its too late to take that kind of action.

Oh good, then we agree on something, although I'd still like to see a point. Hesiod should really start taking some sort of medication to help with his literary ADD.

I think that North Korea, however, desperately needs our attention. We should be shipping food there, regardless of whether or not it tends to prop up that brutal son of a bitch. The people are starving in the millions, and letting them starve to effectuate a pissing match between George W. Bush and Kim Jong Il is not humane.

Yes, because that's how you deal with a braying meglomaniacal leader with an arsenal of nukes issuing daily threats: you send him food. You appease him. You stroke his demented little ego. In Hesiod's world, sending food to NK automatically means the starving masses would get that food, rather than the swollen ranks of the country's military. That way, when they storm across the 38th parallel, at least they'll be well fed.

I DO think that negotiating with the North Koreans, bilaterally, is the only way to diffuse the current crisis. We really have no choice, at this point, thanks to the diplomatic bungling of the Bush administration.

Oh, good, bilaterally, perhaps with the French. Crisis, indeed. The moment that NK head case Kim Jong Il actually burns out his last functioning brain cell and initiates a nuclear attack, then I'd call it a crisis. Somewhere around here, I'm sure Hesiod has some sort of point. I'll keep looking.

As for Iraq, I have expressed my views on that topic quite often. My message to the people of Iraq before the war was, "I feel you pain, but U.S. national interests and strategic concerns take precedence over your suffering."

Who is this guy, Bill Clinton? He feels their pain? Well then, he must have been dangling upsidedown while Uday beat the soles of his feet with a baseball bat.

Sorry to say it, but that's how I felt. And you know what? I'm not the least bit embarrassed or apologetic about it. Accuse me of endorsing the murder of Iraqis all you makes no difference to me. It's nothing but mindless, desperate lashing out, as far as I'm concerned.

A telling paragraph, that, because it totally exposes a fatal flaw in his still pointless logic. For Hesiod, you see, killing is only wrong if the U.S., and more specifically, Bush and company, are responsible. The killing of Iraqis by and Iraqi leader is okay, so long as U.S. intervention isn't on his conscience. I would call Hesiod's logic hypocritical, but that's too nice of a word.

But, now that we've gone and made a mess of things for the United States long-term national interests, I think we should limit the damage as much as possible by internationalizing the reconstruction and security of Iraq as quickly as we can.

If that means turning administration of Iraq over to the United Nations, until Iraqis can take over their own government, then so be it.

Ah yes, the United Nations, that bastion of international goodwill; I'm sure they're just what Iraq needs. After all, the U.N. came up with and oversaw the successful oil for food program that allowed Saddam to build all those opulent palaces, while at the same time giving the Ba'athists an invaluable tool for keeping tabs on the Iraqi people. Yep, let's hand things over to the U.N., where the motto is "We Sure Mean Well, But Damn We're Corrupt."

If our REAL motivation [remember, that's what you are all claiming now] was to "free the Iraqi people" from a brutal dictator, that means we should respect their aspirations, fully, and cede control of Iraq to THEM within 1 year. That doesn't just mean we have a bunch of elections, and still keep over 100,000 troops in country maintaining security. That means,...we get the fuck OUT. Or at least drastically reduce our troop contingent, and turn over security operations to international forces under the auspices of the UN.

Okay, that was about the most bone-headed paragraph ever penned. What Hesiod fails to grasp is that roughly 17 percent of the Iraqi people want coalition forces entirely out of Iraq, while 65 percent think they should stay until the job is complete. The short-sighted folks in the world, of which Hesiod is a card-carrying member, can't wrap their minds around a long-term commitment because they've never seen a long-term commitment. The rebuilding of Europe and Asia after WWII, for example, were long-term commitments. And again with the U.N. To the Hesiods of the world, everything can be fixed by the U.N. Instead, here's an idea: let's keep our troops in-country, clean up the rabble that think Saddam and Ba'athists were great, take down a few moronic terrorist fighters sneaking across the borders to fight, establish a new governmental model, rebuild the living shit out of their country making it a Middle East ideal, and do all of that without the U.N., and then get the fuck OUT. That's a better idea.

I know a few of you wackos still think we invaded Iraq to turn it into a shining example for the rest of the "Arab world" but I'm sorry to say that it will have no legitimacy, whatsoever, unless we (as I said) get the fuck out.

You see, in Hesiod's mind, after a country invades another country, obliterating its infrastructure and governmental system, that country should pull up stakes and leave them all alone to fend for themselves, which is more or less what they'd have to do if you let the esteemed U.N. take care of things. Hesiod is what we in the real world would call "a rabid isolationist." He doesn't remotely understand the world, and he doesn't want to. He just wants to blame somebody for it.

Any government in Iraq, no matter how it is chosen, will not be viewed as legitimate by the Iraqi people, or anyone else in the Arab world, so long as we are backing them up with U.S. military might.

Unless, say, the Iraqi people conduct an election, an honest to goodness election, free from the fear and intimidation of the Ba'athists. And, really, who gives a flying fuck if any other country in the Arab world save Iraq views the government as "legitimate?" Oooh, Syria doesn't see the Iraqi government as legitimate. I'm sure they'll lose a of sleep over that.

Moreover, the strong possibility exists that the U.S., via its Iraq "Governing council" stooges, will make the Ba'ath party, and fundamentalist Islamic parties "illegal." Thus, aping the autocratic behavior of such states as Egypt and Algeria. Way to send a message, guys!

I think you'd be hard pressed to find a whole bunch of people in Iraq who are against banning the Ba'ath party. Maybe Saddam would raise a stink, but that's about it. Actually, it is a way to send a message, and a good one. Namely, "sword weilding mullahs calling for jihad against the Jews and those who support them are not allowed in the Iraqi government." Seems like a good governmental mandate to me.

This will have two effects:

1) It will completely undermine our whole "we believe in democracy and freedom" argument.

2) It will make those two parties, as odious as they are, into the INSTRUMENTS of organized opposition in U.S. endorsed political parties and officials.

1) Banning Ba'athists and Islamic fundamentalists would ensure democracy by keeping those oppressive pukes from turning the country back into a realm of fear and hate and stagnation.

2) Yeah, just like the KKK has organized relevance here in the U.S. Honestly, Hesiod could use a major whack over the head with a Clue X Four.

Now, you may say that we have no real choice in the matter, and cannot allow the Ba'athists and the Fundamentalists to gain political power in Iraq.

Yes, actually, I just did say that. Thank you for the validation.

You know what? I agree with you. And folks like me have been pointing out this problem since BEFORE the war. But, as I said, we have made our bed, and now we have to lie in it.

What you just saw here was some intense back-pedalling followed by the most pathetic resignation. EVER. This whole thing has read like some whacko with a machete slicing at the air with no real target in view.

There are no real "good" options, only ones that do less damage than others.

So...from now on, I suggest we have two courses of conduct before us: We either do things the right way, or the Bush way.

So, there you have it folks: after all this searching for a point, we finally, FINALLY get to it. Namely, Bush is always wrong. Way to construct a totally nothing argument, Hesiod. Way. To. Go.

The Force is weak with this one. Unlike Tawny Roberts, who makes a Force strong in my pants. Or Tyra Banks, for that matter.

Posted by Ryan at 04:56 PM | Comments (0)

When Work Sucks On Friday

Ah, yes, nothing like being assigned a 2,000+ word article on technology you know nothing about, and you have no idea who your contacts are, or even really where to begin at all, plus you have all the other work that's expected of you each month on deadline. Oh, and the article has to be done on Wednesday. That's all on the downside. The upside is that, since this is all above and beyond what is expected of me, I'm getting paid 75 cents a word to get this thing done on time. In other words, milk. every. last. sentence. so. I. can. ponder. a. new. car. Not that I need a new car, mind you, but the thought of money dangling in front of me does strange things to my "I want" list. Th-th-th-th-th-that's all, folks!

Posted by Ryan at 02:14 PM | Comments (0)
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