September 30, 2004

Credit Cards and A Haunting Feeling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Haunting Feeling

Maybe it's the encroaching Halloween holiday, but I find myself feeling more and more certain that some sort of entity inhabits my still freshly-purchased home.

It's not that I'm a staunch believer in ghosts or anything. I don't hang garlic over my doors to ward off the undead, or spend my spare time trying to build a replica of the nuclear accelerator ghost-trapping rifle like those used in the movie "Ghostbusters." Although, now that I think about it, that would be pretty cool.

So, no, I don't spend a lot of time worrying about a visiting apparition. If it happens, it happens, and it will be at that time that I'll drastically have to alter my understanding of life and death and the afterlife. Until I actually SEE a ghost, and sit down and do an extensive Q&A, Barbara Walters-type interview with said ghost, I'm going to err on the side of disbelief.

But, still, my house consistently provides me with my share of both heebies and the occasional jeebie.

There was, for example, the evening when I was happily playing a computer game, and I could have sworn I heard somebody fall UP the basement stairs. I was just sitting there, engrossed in my game, when I plainly heard a *thump, thump, thumpathumpathumpathumpa!* Except, instead of the sound of descent, the thumps seemed as if they came in an ascending crescendo.

I mean, it would have been disconcerting enough to have heard someone possibly falling down my basement stairs (think of the lawsuits!), but to fall UP a flight of stairs must take some serious effort, even for an apparently clumsy poltergeist.

Then there was the evening, just as I was about to fall asleep, when my bedroom door popped open. And, let me be clear here, that my bedroom door is not the kind of door that can just be popped open. It's a tight closing door. You have to turn that doorknob with a little bit of authority to convince it to release its grip. Therefore, having my bedroom door pop open in the middle of the night kind of had an effect on me, in that I refused to walk to the bathroom for the rest of the night and wrapped myself up so tight in my blankets, my circulation was probably in danger.

It's tricky to balance my belief that ghosts probably don't exist with the realization that I know, KNOW, I heard something fall up my basement stairs and that something made my bedroom door pop open. But, until I actually see a ghost, I simply cannot make the mental leap to admit that ghosts exist.

Which of course brings me to the inevitable question: what would I do if I actually see a ghost? What if I wake up to go to the bathroom some night and I see a shimmering sillouette going through my closet. What if I'm doing laundry down in the basement and I see a disembodied head hovering above the water softener? What would I do?

I'm not sure, but I'm sure screaming would be involved. And I'd probably fall up my basement stairs to get away from it.

Posted by Ryan at 12:10 PM | Comments (14)

September 28, 2004

Media Masterminds

I'm amazed, sometimes, at the conflicting power, and non-power, of horrific images.

I could, for example, watch stock footage of mountains of stick-like dead concentration camp victims of World War II stacked up like firewood and think "wow, that was bad," and keep watching anyways.

But, I can't bring myself to watch a bunch of black-hooded thugs hack another man's head off while he screams in agony. I just can't do it.

I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because I'm more at ease seeing people who are already dead, with their lifeless eyes staring into infinity, but seeing the actual instant of helpless death is more troubling. Maybe because I can imagine myself actually getting my head lopped off more than I can imagine what might be done with my body once I'm gone.

I find it odd is all, that repeated viewings of WWII concentration camp horrors, or the killing fields of Cambodia, or the mass graves unearthed in Iraq, illicit murmurings of remorse, but not much else; yet footage of a kidnapped man about to lose his life at the hands of thugs can actually affect governmental policy.

Terrorists may be a blight upon this planet, but I have to give them one thing: they know how to manipulate the media. It's more than just a little creepy.

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

September 27, 2004

Bush Comes Clean About Secret Milk Plan

Pressure by Kerry forces president to show his hand

WASHINGTON D.C. (Rhodes Media Services) -- Responding to a speech in Wisconsin by Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry, President Bush today came out and publicly acknowledged his secret plan to hurt milk producers after the election.

The plan, dubbed "Operation Cow Tip," is a deviously constructed strategy to contaminate the nation's milk supply so that anyone who drinks milk after the election will immediately suffer explosive bouts of diarrhea.

The ensuing public backlash would have caused a nationwide boycott of milk and other dairy products, thereby destroying the dairy industry and hastening a switch over to Milk II, a dairy substitute created from petroleum and developed by Halliburton.

"You gotta admit, as secret milk plans go, this one was pretty cool," said Bush, standing outside on the White House lawn. "I came up with the explosive diarrhea angle because, let's face it, millions of people crapping themselves senseless would have been laugh-out-loud funny."

The Kerry campaign has also spoken of several other secret Bush plans, but the President refused to elaborate on them.

"A fella has to have some secret plans that stay secret, you know," said Bush.

Posted by Ryan at 04:48 PM | Comments (1)

So, Yeah, This Star Wars Galaxies Thing

I didn't much like Star War Galaxies after I bought it, but I figured I had better play it a little bit, because I did, after all, spend over $30 for it.

As games go, Galaxies is pretty boring. I spend most of my time doing missions to build credits so I can afford better armor and weapons, which are astronomically expensive, if you want GOOD armor and weapons.

It pretty much goes like this: I need 40,000 credits for a new helmet, so I go to a mission terminal and select two missions that, when completed, will result in about 3,000 worth in credits. So, I pretty much have to do that 14 times so I can buy a freakin' helmet.

During those 14 missions sequences, I get all injured and wounded, so I have to go to a medical center in the off-beat chance there's a medic there. Then I have to go to a cantina to sit on the floor and watch dancers and musicians, which is just bout the most boring thing in the world. Then, I have to swing by a garage to repair my speederbike, which usually costs around 3,000, which means I have to tack on yet another couple missions to pay for that.

Along the way, I keep bumping into creatures that can kill me by means of a gentle breath of air, which makes me want to buy an armor chest plate costing 125,000 credits to protect me. Which of course means a lot more freakin' missions.

Thing is, despite the unbelievable overall boredom of this game, I can't stop playing it. I'm completely addicted to this freakishly boring game. There's something about the advancement set-up of the game that just keeps me glued to the screen.

I hope this gets out of my system pretty soon, because, honestly, this just can't be healthy.

Here's a list of famous women I'm posting to boost Web traffic: Christina Aguilera. Jessica Alba. Lindsay Lohan. Tina Fey.. Carrie Ann Moss. Kate Hudson. Summer Glau. Jennifer Love Hewitt. Jennifer Connelly. Christina Aguilera. Jessica Alba. Lindsay Lohan. Jessica Alba. Jenny Garth. Jenny Garth. Alyssa Milano. Alyssa Milano. Kate Hudson. Summer Glau. Jennifer Love Hewitt. Jennifer Connelly. Evanna Lynch. Evanna Lynch. Evanna Lynch.

Posted by Ryan at 12:54 PM | Comments (5)

September 24, 2004


Ever since I was moved back to the main IBM blue buildings, the building in which I'm located has been undergoing considerable remodelling. The one thing I've most been anticipating is the completion of the big bathroom facility.

Well, the bathroom has actually been done for a couple weeks now, but for some reason the janitorial staff simply hasn't gotten around to stocking it with toilet paper or paper towels, which of course means that taking a number two is out of the question.

Thing is, I really wanted to use the new bathroom stalls. They're clean, and the doors are intact, and the toilets automatically flush when you're done. It's like a bathroom amusement park, and I wanted to be one of the first to ride the new rollercoaster, or use the new shitters, as the case may be.

Today, I had had it. I was going to be the first to use those damned toilets, no matter what. So, I went to a different bathroom upstairs, unspooled about 30 feet of toilet paper (better to be safe than sorry, you know), tucked the pilfered paper under my armpits, and went back downstairs to use the new bathroom.

It was, shall we say. . . glorious. I was a king! I sat enthroned within my steel enclosure, secure in the knowledge that none had sat there before me. From this day on, let it be known that I was the first to perform bowel cleansing functions in the new IBM bathroom!

I was number one to take a number two!!

But, that automatic flusher kind of spooked me a little bit.

Posted by Ryan at 02:49 PM | Comments (3)

Bed Bugs

Caroline says: TGIF

Ryan says: Indeed.

Ryan says: A dark and gloomy and almost impossible to get out of bed Friday, but a Friday all the same.

Caroline says: Getting out of bed sucks.

Ryan says: Unless there are spiders in the bed.

Caroline says: Good point.

Ryan says: Or snakes.

Ryan says: Or Richard Simmons.

Ryan says: Or if any of the following women are waiting for you downstairs: Namrata Singh Gujral. Cerina Vincent. Lauren Lee Smith. Tawny Cypress. Jayma Mays. Rose Byrne. Natalia Tena. Carice van Houten. Sonya Walger. Michelle Ryan. Alice Braga. Kristen Stewart. Katie Leung. Vera Jordanova. Mia Maestro. Ninel Conde.

Caroline says: sigh

Posted by Ryan at 09:38 AM | Comments (0)

September 23, 2004

Yeah, but think of the electric bill

Lightbulb burns for 96 years

Posted by Ryan at 01:11 PM | Comments (0)

Hi, Gene. I mean, hygiene

So, apparently, there's going to be a new phone coming out that can actually tell you whether you have bad breath, or if you're giving off offensive odors.

It's not enough that we humans struggle every day to ward off body odor, now we'll have phones informing us of such.

BERLIN (Reuters) - A German telecommunications company said on Tuesday it is developing the first mobile phone that will alert users when their breath is bad or if they are giving off offensive smells.

*ring, ring*


"Yeaaaahhh, this is your phone calling. Just thought you'd like to know that you could really use a Tic-Tac right about now."

"Oh. Okay. Thanks for the tip."

"Wait. . . wait. . . I didn't want to tell you this, but I think I have to. Your armpits, dude. . . seriously, take a sniff. You smell that? That's disgusting. You own deodorant, man, so why don't you use it more liberally?"

"Uh, yeah, I suppose you're right. I better get on that. Goodbye."

"WAIT! Wait. . . just wait a second. Look, while we're on the topic, you do realize this is day number three and you're still wearing the same boxer shorts, right?"

"Well, yeah. I've been busy."

"Too busy to change your freakin' drawers? It takes, what, four seconds or so? But, no, you just keep putting it off. Now here you sit, in a pair of soiled boxer shorts that smell like you shit yourself and then ran a marathon. Come on, man, change those things or, at the very least, go commando for the rest of the day. Seriously, it's revolting."

The phone will use a tiny chip measuring less than one millimeter to detect unpleasant odors, a spokeswoman for Siemens Mobile said. A research team in the southern city of Munich is developing the device using new sensor technology.

Who do you have to piss off to get put on that research team?

"It examines the air in the immediate vicinity for anything from bad breath and alcohol to atmospheric gas levels," the spokeswoman said. "Some people take smelling good rather seriously."

Yeah, as if we don't have a problem with people perpetually attached to their cell phones as it is. Now the phones will feed of the hygiene paranoia of the human masses. This idea really stinks.

Posted by Ryan at 01:09 PM | Comments (5)

September 21, 2004

More Nonsense From Caroline And Me

Caroline says: Man, I'm reading the FAQ part of Dan Brown's site. If you think he drops info into his books, you should see his answers to these questions. Blah blah blah...

Ryan says: I bet.

Ryan says: Mental masturbation, I believe they call it.

Caroline says: I bet he got beat up a lot in school.

Ryan says: "Sure, my nose is bloody because you punched me, but did you know that blood is made up of hemoglobin, meaning 'hemo' for blood and 'globin,' which is a derivative of 'goblin,' which is a derivative of 'goblet.' So, in essence, 'hemoglobin' means 'blood goblet,' which of course means 'Holy Grail. Therefore, you just beat the Holy Grail out of me."

Caroline says: This is what I'm saying.

Caroline says: Seriously, check out his FAQ when you get a chance.

Ryan says: It all comes back to the Holy Grail.

Caroline says: Usually.

UPDATE: Here's a picture of the crazed co-worker known as Caroline, in case you're interested. Note the large ears, big teeth and huge nose. Other than that, she's okay to look at, I guess.


Granted, she's no Elisha Cuthbert. Elisha Cuthbert . Elisha Cuthbert . Elisha Cuthbert . Elisha Cuthbert . Elisha Cuthbert . Elisha Cuthbert .

Posted by Ryan at 09:52 AM | Comments (7)

September 20, 2004

Discussing Important Things, Such As Ree Roo

Caroline says: Did you know Britney Spears got married over the weekend?

Ryan says: Did you know I don't care?

Caroline says: Yeah, I did. Just thought I'd share that info with you.

Ryan says: Did you know that she's toxic?

Ryan says: Reeeee, roooooo, ree roo roooooo.

Ryan says: Or something like that.
Caroline says: Reeeeeee roooooooooo?

Ryan says: What would your write to simulate the sound of a violin being played violently?

Caroline says: Nothing. I wouldn't try.

Ryan says: Well, then I stick by "reee rooo."

Caroline says: rut roh, ree roo

Ryan says: Why did they give Scooby that particular speech impediment, anyway?

Caroline says: Wasn't that Astro?

Caroline says: Rut Roh, Rorge.

Ryan says: No, it was Scoob.

Caroline says: Astro said Rut roh, Rorge.

Caroline says: Scooby really couldn't talk.

Caroline says: he had that laugh, though

Ryan says: I always thought Astro was a cheap knock-off of Scooby.

Ryan says: No, because Scooby could say "Scooby snacks."

Caroline says: Scooby was more expensive than Astro?

Caroline says: But he didn't say Rut Roh

Ryan says: And he called Shaggy, "Raggy."

Caroline says: Yeah, I guess.

Ryan says:

Caroline says: ok

Caroline says: ok...

Ryan says: So, Scooby said rut roh.

Caroline says: Astro said rut roh

Ryan says: He also said "Rikes."

Caroline says: how 'bout they both said it?

Ryan says: Maybe they both did.

Caroline says: I know Astro said it.

Ryan says: Hanna-Barberra recycled all their tired, annoying gags.

Caroline says: I hope they found the donuts at the end of that book.

Ryan says: I thought the same thing.

Ryan says: Dan Brown has nothing on Scooby Doo.

Caroline says: He has PHI. Scooby has the snacks.

Ryan says: Scooby would call PHI, "Ree," which brings us back full circle to "ree roo."

Caroline says: It's a vicious cycle.

Posted by Ryan at 11:25 AM | Comments (2)

September 17, 2004

Rather Bad

Since this has been a week during which my blog was dedicated to hating on CBS and Dan Rather for pissing all over the concepts of journalistic accountability, credibility and thoroughness--which is all particularly insulting to me as a journalist--I'll leave you with some thoughts:

What CBS and Rather did was to rely on extremely pathetically crafted forgeries as a cornerstone of a story that could not stand without those memos being genuine.

What CBS and Rather did was to say, when faced with the reality of the forgeries, that "the memos were fake, but accurate," setting a distressing precedent and creating a shameful comedic tagline that will be used to snipe at journalists for a long time to come.

What CBS and Rather did was bad for journalism.

What CBS and Rather did will tarnish the reputations of otherwise good and decent reporters and call down even more scrutiny on their work, which requires enough damned scrutiny as it is, believe me.

What CBS and Rather did, if it had been done here, at an IBM magazine, would have gotten me fired, and probably a bunch of other people, too.

What CBS and Rather did was fucking wrong, and they don't even have the damned common decency to admit it was fucking wrong. They don't even have to say "fucking," they can just say they were wrong.

CBS and Rather are going to hunker down and wait for this storm to blow over, and it's going to do just that, and boy that pisses me off.

Posted by Ryan at 04:59 PM | Comments (22)

There Was Talent? Who Knew?

Less Talent, More Skin At Pageant

They need more Jennifer Garner nude.">Jennifer Garner. Jennifer Garner is just plain hot. I wish there were more pictures of Jennifer Garner nude. A nude Jennifer Garner would be great.

Posted by Ryan at 01:26 PM | Comments (1)

A Little Cheddar X-stacy

I'm about as reliable when it comes to participating in the Cheddar X as a pot-head who says he's get something done "tomorrow." But, I do come through about once a month or so. Let's begin, shall we?

1. What was the last thing you regret saying the moment it left your lips or keyboard?

I regret shit all the time. I'm a damned regret xerox machine, for crying out loud. One anecdote sticks out, though. . .

Back in college, my buddies and I made semi-frequent trips to the local strip club, called the Four Mile Club. It's a seedy dive of a strip club; the kind of place where you can actually smell the cooties. Anyway, we were up at "Sniff Row," which, if you're unfamiliar with strip club vernacular, is the row closest to the stage, where you can supposedly smell the. . . well. . . never mind.

So, we're up at sniff row, putting our dollars down, and generally unwinding after a long day of skipping classes, when my buddies, as was often the case, started giving me shit. We always give each other shit, usually going on down the line ganging up on one for awhile, and then moving on and giving shit to another. Well, it was my turn to get shit.

Now, the thing about my buddies and me is that we're very effective at giving shit and, after awhile of being ganged up on by veteran shit-givers, it starts to take its toll. One of my buddies, Chad, was chatting it up with the stripper on stage, and he sensed I was getting irritated about being the shit receiver, so he floated this little gem up:

"Hey, you know, his mom (meaning my mom, of course) used to be a stripper. Bet she could give you some pointers."

There are some topics that bother me, and one that has always bothered me is how my buddies like to tell me that "my mom is hot" or "they'd like to 'do' my mom." I can usually take such jokes in stride, but that day, with my buddy telling a naked woman on stage, in all seriousness, that my mother, who is, in fact, a high school English teacher, used to be a stripper. . . well. . . something went off in my head.

"My mom was never a stripper! She has more self-respect than that!"

Now, in a strip club, filled with strippers, that was probably the worst thing in the world that could have fallen out of my mouth. It was uttered in defense of my mother. It was a heat of the moment kind of thing. I could feel the heavy stares from all the half-naked and fully-naked women in the club, and I think they all wanted to kill me in various painful ways.

We left the strip club about three minutes later, which Chad laughing maniacally at me all the way out the door. He still reminds about that every chance he gets. That fucker.

2. When was the last time you wished ill upon someone? Why?

Just now, thinking of my buddy Chad.

3. What's wrong with you?

Short temper. Impatient. Obnoxious. And oh so much more.

4. Who would most benefit from having sense knocked into them?

Mike Tyson.

5. Who would you just most like to knock around?

Well, lately, it's been pretty much Dan Rather, but that probably wouldn't be a fair fight. He'd kick my ass.

6. What is the worst part of your day?

Pretty much any time I actually have to work.

UNRELATED: By the way, I've been assigned an article that will explore the evolving technology of Voice Over IP (VOIP). If you have any hot leads or good contacts for such an article, please let me know (yes, I'm looking at you, Johnny Huh?).

Posted by Ryan at 10:54 AM | Comments (2)

September 16, 2004

CBS Announces New Line-Up

Amidst Growing News Credibility Problems, Network Focuses On Entertainment Programs

NEW YORK (Rhodes Media Services) -- Following a difficult week during which television giant CBS experienced repeated credibility blows after a 60-Minutes broadcast that relied on fake memos, the station is now focusing on a new entertainment programming line-up it hopes will entice viewers.

Leading off the new line-up is "Everybody Distrusts Rather," a refreshing comedy that follows the septuagenarian news anchor, Dan Rather, as he tries to convince the American public to trust him on a variety of topics, from preferred popcorn brands to political punditry. Hilarity ensues.

CBS is also betting heavily on its "Survivor: 60 Minutes," which will closely monitor the life signs of the aging news documentary anchors. Who will be left standing? Will it be the gasping 83-year-old Mike Wallace, or the equally old Andy Rooney? Don't count out that young whipper-snapper, 56-year-old Steve Kroft! Watch as the anchors compete for Centrum-Silver vitamins and Rascal Scooters. Hilarity ensues.

And don't miss the new season of Crime Scene Investigation (CSI), when investigators storm a newsroom only to discover a hotbed of fraud, forged documents, deception and cover-ups. Dan Rather guest stars. Hilarity ensues.

Posted by Ryan at 01:37 PM | Comments (4)

A Journey In The Wayback machine. . . Or Why CBS Can Bite Me

I entered into journalism by accident. Or, sort of by accident.

Initially, I had planned to go into teaching, following in my parents' footsteps. But, somewhere along the way, I realized I didn't have the patience to deal with classrooms filled with younger versions of myself.

So it was, during the first quarter of my fourth year at Winona State University, I looked at my skill set and realized that, for whatever genetic reason, I had the ability to write. I couldn't write fiction very well, mind you, but I had a knack for writing non-fiction, particularly when it came to self-deprecating humor, but I also realized that I could naturally write like a newspaper reporter. I'm not sure where this innate skill originated, but it was pretty easy to figure out that I should look into journalism as a possible profession.

I took to the WSU mass communication/journalism curriculum like a duck to water, or, to make up a different analogy, like a nightcrawler to dirt. I was good at it. My brief foray into broadcast journalism classes didn't go so well, with me calling my professor a jackass, but I really had a knack for print journalism.

Well, during the winter quarter of that year, I was in a creative writing journalism class, which was basically all about writing human interest and feature articles. I basically breezed through the whole quarter with high grades, but it was the final project that very nearly did me in.

We were assigned a lengthy feature article; we could choose the topic, but we had to interview actual sources and present hard evidence to back up our work.

Well, I got lazy. I went and wrote an article about the Amish community living around my hometown. Now, I didn't particularly like the Amish at that time. I had grown up living around them, and I was more than just a little familiar with the long trails of horse poop streaked in front of my parents' home pretty much 24x7.

The thing is, Harmony has pretty much been economically saved by tourism, thanks in large part to the Amish, with buses of city folk coming down to Harmony to witness the Amish lifestyle. It's big business for my small hometown. Still, I've always scoffed at the tourist notion that the Amish lifestyle is an idyllic existence, which went a long ways to tainting the final project I was writing at the time.

So, I was biased. . . and I was lazy. I had my preconceived notion of what the Amish were, and I didn't want to do a lot of work. So, I interviewed a bunch of my local friends and acquaintances which, not surprisingly, consisted of a lot of people in their early 20s who made it a point not to like the Amish. The eventual article I submitted for class, though it "accurately" represented my own personal bias and the biases of those I interviewed, only presented part of the entire story. I didn't really care. It was for a grade, after all; it wasn't like it was going to go to print or anything.

Well, I got an A on the project, and the professor asked me if she could run the article in the college publication "Bravura." Eep. This was my first opportunity ever to appear in print, for other people to read, and I knew that the project, as written, was basically a big, stinking pile of personal bias. Still, I couldn't resist the chance to be in print.

So, I informed my professor that, yes, my article could run in Bravura, provided she let me rework it a bit. I went back to my hometown, and I found some ex-Amish people to interview, and I interviewed business owners who had benefited from Amish tourism, and I basically worked my ass off to present a balanced account of what the Amish community meant to the people of Harmony, not just those who disliked them. And, I'm here to tell you, it was a damned fine article, possibly one of the better things I've ever written.

I submitted the revamped article to my professor, and she agreed that it was even better than the original. I also submitted the article to the editor of Bravura and told him, in no unspecific terms, that the revamped article was the one that should run in the paper. He told me he understood.

A couple weeks later, the quarterly issue of Bravura came out. Lo and behold, there I was in print for the first time. The only problem was that it was the original, entirely biased and lazy, version of my article that ran.

I didn't think much of it at the time. It was the end of the quarter and I was getting ready for spring break, and really, it was a campus newspaper; it wasn't like that had a huge readership or anything. I left for a Colorade ski trip and didn't think once about Bravura or the crappy article.

Well. . .

Upon my return, I discovered that the Winona Daily News had seen the article in Bravura and asked for permission to run it. Now, the Winona Daily News is a fairly well-read area newspaper. Like, it's read all the way in Harmony. I had scarcely unpacked my luggage before I started hearing murmurings about my shoddy piece of journalistic garbage. The letters to the editor section of the Winona Daily News came alive with people telling me to get bent, and that I wasn't qualified to weild a pen. Back in Harmony, the issue even came up in a city council meeting.

My first day back to school for the spring quarter, I was called on the carpet, so to speak, and I was to meet with the publisher of Bravura and pretty much most of the WSU mass communication faculty. I was in trouble. I was in a whole lot of considerable trouble. As in, there was talk of suspension trouble.

Thankfully, I came to the meeting armed with the revamped article that was SUPPOSED to run and I presented it to the publisher. Some intensely intense minutes passed as the article was passed back and forth and the meeting attendees murmured in agreement that the article they had wasn't the same one that ran in Bravura. My professor, also in attendance, was forced to agree.

I'm really not sure what happened after all of that. They excused me from the office, which I left, gratefully. I was never asked about it ever again, and the furor over the article eventually died down as people moved on to other issues. I never learned for certain, but I heard that the editor who ran with the original article was suspended. Whether that's true or not, I don't know. My professor was gone the next year, too, although I don't think she was fired because of the whole flap. Suspicious timing, but probably nothing more than that. The Winona Daily News apparently forgot about the whole thing, because they hired me without much question about a year later.

Life went on, in other words, but for awhile there, I pretty much felt doomed. And, really, if I had submitted the original article, knowing full well that it was the result of lazy and biased writing, I should have been suspended, without question. But, I didn't. I went back and got the full story, or as close to the full story as I could get, and that's what I submitted for print. I still had my biases about the Amish, mind you, but I got the other side of the story.

So, today, I'm watching this crap unfold about CBS and Dan Rather using pathetically forged documents to back up what was essentially a biased news broadcast, and it pisses me off a little bit. I mean, if I had defended myself by saying "well, the article may be largely wrong, but it accurately reflects my biased research," I would have been hung out to dry. I'd be cleaning toilets for a living right now. Instead, I went back out and did my job and got the full story, and that, in the end, saved my ass.

I'm watching CBS tell the world that, although the documents they presented were forgeries, those forgeries were accurate in that they augmented the content of the broadcast. That's just so crazy ass nuts, I simply want to scream. It flies in the face of every journalistic moral rule I ever learned in school. The precedent they're setting here is just vile, and people should be insulted. I sure as hell am.

Posted by Ryan at 10:50 AM | Comments (5)

September 14, 2004

Monty Python Takes On Dan Rather

Praline: Hello, I wish to register a complaint . . . Hello? Miss?

Dan Rather: What do you mean, miss?

Praline: Oh, I'm sorry, I have a cold. I wish to make a complaint.

Dan Rather: Sorry, we're closing for lunch.

Praline: Never mind that old man, I wish to complain about this news piece you aired about five days ago on this very station.

Dan Rather: Oh yes, the Bush AWOL expose. What's wrong with it?

Praline: I'll tell you what's wrong with it. Those memos you used were forged, that's what's wrong with it.

Dan Rather: No, no that's just an Internet rumor, look!

Praline: Look old man, I know forged documents when I see them and I'm looking at some right now.

Dan Rather: No, no sir, they're not forged. They're genuine.

Praline: Genuine?

Dan Rather: Yeah, remarkable memos, aren't they? They're about 30 years old but they look just like they were written using a modern word processor. amazing memos, really. Damning content, innit?

Praline: The content doesn't enter into it -- they're obviously forged.

Dan Rather: No, no -- that's just a nasty Internet rumor.

Praline: All right then, if it's just a rumor, how come you can't verify the authenticity of the memos? How come the preponderance of evidence points to the memos being extremely bad forgeries?

Dan Rather: (holding up a memo) See? It's signed.

Praline: It's a xeroxed copy! The signature doesn't mean anything on a xeroxed copy! Forging signatures on modern word processors is ridiculously easy! If these are genuine documents, where are the originals?

Dan Rather: Oh. . . they're around.

Praline: No, they're not. (takes memo out of Rather's hand) Hello memo, MEMO (holds memo up to the light) Genuine memo, where are you? Memo. (throws it in the air and lets it float to the floor) Now that's what I call a forged memo.

Dan Rather: No, no it's just difficult to verify.

Praline: Look old man, I've had just about enough of this. Those memos are definitely forged. And when I watched your news broadcase just five days ago, you assured me that the documents were genuine and that you had verified them through rigorous journalistic scrutiny. Yet now, with more and more evidence piling up that they're fake, your news organization is telling me that the memos can't be "conclusively" proven to be fake.

Dan Rather: Well, they can't be. At least not yet.

Praline: "At least not yet," what kind of talk is that? Look, why did the authenticity of the memos come under question within hours of the broadcast?

Dan Rather: That's just that danged Internet and all those reckless blogs spreading misinformation and rumor.

Praline: Look, I took the liberty of examining those memos, and I discovered that the only reason they don't totally match up with each other is because the memos had been xeroxed so repeatedly, the text had just degraded.

Dan Rather: Well of course the text was degraded. Those documents are over 30 years old.

Praline: Look matey (picks up memo) this memo is supposed to be a personal document written by Lieutenant Colonel Jerry B. Killian, who then supposedly saved the document. Why, then, is this memo a COPY of a personal document that you can't come up with the original of? It's bleeding forged.

Dan Rather: It's not, that's just a rumor.

Praline: It's not a rumor, it's a forged document. These memos are not real. They are fake as hell. They're not even good fakes. They're amateurish attempts at forgery that should never have been hoisted up as genuine. A fifth grader could have produced these memos. A half-blind grandmother could tell that the memos are fake.

Dan Rather: Well, I'd better issue a retraction and an apology, then.

Praline: (to camera) If you want to get anything done in this country you've got to complain till you're blue in the mouth.

Dan Rather: Sorry guv, I'm too proud and stubborn to issue a retraction and an apology.

Praline: I see. I see. I get the picture.

Dan Rather: I could do a broadcast segment devoted to underage obesity.

Praline: Would it mention all the forged documents you used that went a long way towards misinforming your viewership?

Dan Rather: Not really, no.

Praline: Well, it's scarcely a consololation then is it?



One last time.

Even answering the all the questions such as:

Were proportional spacing typewriters available? Yes.

Could you have a typewriter key with a superscript for ordinal dates? Yes.

Could a typewriter have Times New Roman? Yes.

This does not leave us in a situation where one can write "NOTHING HAS BEEN PROVEN ONE WAY OR THE OTHER". There has been no evidence presented of a typewriter that reproduces these documents (even after 6 days!). The overlays of the PDFs and MS Word copies created in default mode are too exact in spacing, centering, and tabbing to be the product of a random chance that isn't of a prohibitive nature. I agree that many were far too hasty in writing things like "superscripts weren't possible in 1972". However, to believe the case for authenticity, one must believe that these documents, and these documents alone, conform, entirely by random chance, to the default settings of the most prevalent modern word processing software on the planet. If you wish to continue to believe this, then do so, however, I feel no remorse in labeling you a moron.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on September 15, 2004 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Posted by Ryan at 10:15 AM | Comments (11)

September 13, 2004

Discussing The Real Issues

In an unprecedented coup for a blogger, I, Ryan Rhodes, also known as a smoking hot specimen of male hunkiness, was able to sit down with both Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry and President George W. Bush.

Because both campaigns seem to have lost focus when it comes to discussing the real issues facing America today, I took it upon myself to ask both men the probing questions that need to be asked during this politically-charged election year.

RYAN RHODES: Thank you both so much for meeting with me today. I'd like to start off by asking a question that neither of you has yet addressed. Do you prefer Coke or Pepsi, and why? Mr. Bush?

PRESIDENT BUSH: I'm glad you asked that question, Double R. Can I call you Double R?

RYAN RHODES: Well, actually, if you could call me Ryan, that would be. . .

PRESIDENT BUSH: Anyway, Double R, I've always preferred Pepsi, to be honest with you. Pepsi just has a certain carbonationiferousness I enjoy. Also, the colors of Pepsi are a patriotic red, white and blue, unlike that Communist red and white Coca-Cola color scheme. Coke just screams hammer and sickle, I think. I'm an American patriot, so I don't have time to drink Commie-Cola.

RYAN RHODES: Er, thank you, Mr. President. Senator Kerry?

SENATOR KERRY: Well, Mr. Rhodes, I have to tell you, the Coke versus Pepsi conflict is one that requires a lot of thought and introspection. You have to understand both sides of the issue before you can formulate an opinion. For example, I liked Pepsi before I started liking Coke, but I only started liking Coke after I consulted with top executives from both Pepsi and Coke. Whoops. I was just informed by one of my campaign managers that I do, in fact, like Coke and Pepsi equally.

RYAN RHODES: Very well. I have here a couple of pictures of women I think are extremely good looking. Who do you think is better looking: Salma Hayek or Summer Glau?

SENATOR KERRY: Well, one's own personal concept of beauty is very subjective. Some people may like curvaciously-stunning Hayek over the near-perfection of Berry. Back when I served in Vietnam, between running over to Cambodia during secret CIA missions and conducting sniper assignments targeting Ho Chi Minh, I didn't have much time to think about female beauty. I think it's safe to say, nowadays, that I like Summer Glau and Salma Hayek pretty much equally.

PRESIDENT BUSH: You see, Double R, Summer Glau is definitely hot. Back in my heavy partying days, when I was 35 or so, I can't remember--those years are still pretty hazy--I knew a few ladies who looked just like Summer Glau. They didn't like me much, but that didn't keep me from looking. Salma Hayek's great looking, too, but Summer Glau just knocks my boots off. Back in Crawford, Texas, she'd be known as a "Hawwwteeeee."

RYAN RHODES: On a more serious note, this election cycle has seen some pretty negative campaigning on both sides. What do you think should be done to improve the tone of political discourse in our country?

SENATOR KERRY: I'm all for a more civil tone in Washington, and in America in general. I mean, sure, it's easier to run a negative campaign. I could, I suppose, call President Bush a warmongering goose-stepping fascist doofus with bad breath and frumpy hair. But, you see, I'm above that.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Likewise, it would be easier if my campaign could just out-and-out call Kerry a botox-injecting, issue waffling, ketchup-eating, Vietnam-fantasizer who has all the charisma and personality of a clogged toilet, but that would be wrong.

SENATOR KERRY: Why you little. . .

PRESIDENT BUSH: Bring 'em on!

*Kerry and Bush slap at each other in a very undignified, girl-like fashion*



RYAN RHODES: Gentlemen! Gentlemen! Please!

SENATOR KERRY: That's it! I've had it! I can no longer stand being in the same blog with this wretched excuse for a president! I'll just take my lucky CIA cap and be on my way. Good day, sirs. Vote Kerry!

PRESIDENT BUSH: I'm outta here, too! I have a terror alert level that I've been itching to ratchet up to "Orange." It was a pleasure speaking with you, Double R. Vote Bush!

Posted by Ryan at 11:26 AM | Comments (4)

The Da Vinci code Discussed

DISCLAIMER: This post includes some spoilers regarding the book "The Da Vinci code." If you're planning to read it, don't read this. . . if you've already read it, this will make perfect sense. . . if you haven't read it, and don't plan to read, this post may just as well be written in Pig Latin Chinese.

Caroline says: Did you know the Holy Grail was at the Louvre?

Ryan says: Totally had no idea.

Ryan says: Hidden in plain view, from what I understand.

Caroline says: I so knew.

Ryan says: The Teabing = Guilty thing still leaves me scratching my head.

Caroline says: heh

Ryan says: If his freakin' servant was in on it, why the hell have his servant climb to the top of a freakin' barn to do his covert surveillance?

Caroline says: because a guy with polio can't, thus clearing him as a suspect

Caroline says: if he didn't get caught, anyway

Ryan says: Uh huh. So, you know, just curious here. . . why the hell didn't the servant say "Hey, boss, this whole climbing in the barn rafter thing. . . you aren't possibly getting ready to rat me out if things go badly, are you?"

Caroline says: lol

Caroline says: I had a feeling the "Remy's allergic to peanuts" info was going to come into play later in the book...unlike PHI.

Ryan says: Trust me, Brown's going to come out with another book that centers entirely around the concept of PHI.

Caroline says: I hope so.

Posted by Ryan at 09:36 AM | Comments (2)

September 10, 2004

Dear CBS. . .

Please do a better job researching your stories in the future. That is, provided you have much of a future left.

Jeez, if the blogosphere can sniff out forgeries better, and in faster time, than "experts" utilized by news organizations, I can't help but think that Big Media is even lazier and sloppier than I previously believed. And that's saying something.

UPDATE: I'm not sure why, but I find it incredibly amusing that much of the Internet right now is being used to argue about typewriters. I haven't thought about typewriters since 9th grade, and now today I'm learning more about the infernal machines than I ever wanted to know. At least I'm getting a laugh out of it.

Posted by Ryan at 12:02 PM | Comments (18)

September 09, 2004

Buyer Beware

Okay, see, here's the problem I have with some of the paranoid copyright laws that are now on the books thanks to illegal downloads. Keep in mind, I've done a couple illegal downloads in my time. I'll hear a song on the radio, and I'll want to hear that song again, so I'll download it. Eventually, I usually get sick of the song and delete it. Except for a few.

Anyway, I have never, and I have no plans to, try downloading an entire video game, and I don't buy games, run home, and burn a copy and then try to return it to get my cash back. I don't think that's conducive to a good consumer marketplace. There are people who do that, and I can understand the impulse, I guess. But, people, you're really fucking things up for those of us who foolishly play by the rules. Consider a couple of recent trips to Best Buy. (keep in mind, the dialogue is a best guesstimate)

ME: Yes, I'd like to return this game (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic).

CLERK: Certainly. What seems to be the problem with it?

ME: I'm not sure. It won't install on my computer.

CLERK: I see. Well, according to copyright laws, we can't give you a refund, we can only allow you to exchange it for a similar copy.

ME: Will that copy install on my computer?

CLERK: I don't know.

ME: Er, okay, thanks.

*I select another copy, go home, and unsuccessfully try to install the game. I then return to Best Buy*

ME: Yeah, I tried to install this, but it still doesn't work on my computer.

CLERK: Well, let's see if it installs on our machines.

*CLERK successfully installs game on Best Buy computer*

CLERK: The problem must be on your computer. If you want to bring it in, we can troubleshoot it for you and set you up with a new CD drive, if that's where the problem is.

ME: And how much would that be?

CLERK: Oh, a couple hundred dollars.

ME: So I can play a $20 game?

CLERK: Well, you'd also have a more up-to-date system.

ME: Just so we're clear here. You can't refund me $20 for a game that doesn't work on my computer, but you can update my system for $200 or so, so that a $20 game I'm not entirely sure I even want any more will run on my system?


Fast forward to my next visit.

ME: I bought this game yesterday, and I played it for about 20 minutes before realizing it wasn't at all what I thought it would be (Star Wars: Galaxies). They want me to pay $15 or so every month to play it online with a bunch of people who have absolutely no lives whatsoever.

CLERK: And what can we do for you?

ME: Well, I like to play computer games once in awhile, but I certainly don't camp out in front of my computer for 80 consecutive hours interacting with people who secretly believe they're the descendant of Boba Fett.

CLERK: *nervous laugh* I see, and what would you like us to do.

ME: Okay, I bought this game, this game right here, with the understanding that I could fire it up and play for 15 minutes or so while I wait for a pizza to cook or something. But, the thing with this game, you see, is that, in order to actually play it, you have to fork over a monthly subsription fee, in addition to the initial cost of the game. For as little as I actually sit down and play computer games, I can't justify a monthly fee to play a game that I don't play all that much.

CLERK: ...

ME: What I'm getting at here, is that I bought this game, but I realize now that it's an incredibly stupid waste time and money, and that I'll never play it enough to warrant a $15 monthly fee. I figured all this out in just under 20 minutes, so I'd very much like to return it.

CLERK: But, you opened it.

ME: Yes, yes I did open it. I had to open it and install it in order to discover that it is, in fact, a stupid waste of time and money. It was unavoidable. In order to learn fact B, I had to first conduct action A.

CLERK: But, it's been opened. Copyright laws today state that opened software cannot be returned for refunds. You may have copied the disks.

ME: But, I didn't.

CLERK: But other people do.

ME: *growing extremely impatient* Let's say, just for the sake of argument, that you leave your job today, and you get mugged on your way out the door. Under this copyright reasoning, even though I wasn't the one who mugged you, I should still suffer some sort of consequences because you were mugged, even though, at the time, I was at home trying to play a lousy computer game.

CLERK: I can understand your frustration, sir, but there's nothing we can do once a software package has been opened except allow you to exchange it for a different copy.

ME: A different copy of a game I don't want?

CLERK: Yes, I'm sorry.

Posted by Ryan at 02:49 PM | Comments (6)

September 08, 2004

September 07, 2004

Labor Day Weekend Recap, In As Many Parts As I Can Steal Away From Work, Part II

Saturday, after I woke up at about noon, Mel and I made our obligatory journey to the Minnesota State Fair, a time-honored Minnesota tradition during which you are expected to eat every fried food ever created, including deep fried candy bars and deep fried Twinkies.

The State Fair is a sure-fire way to pack on the calories whilst also depleting one's wallet. Seriously, you'll see a sign that reads "Bratwurst: $4 each" and you think, despite all common sense, "hey, that's a good deal. I'll buy five of those."

I limited my Fair eating to a calzone and a bag of mini-doughnuts because, let's be honest, if you don't buy mini-doughnuts when the opportunity presents itself, you're pretty much a failure as a human being.

Overall, my Fair experience this year was rather disappointing (and not just because I couldn't locate the local blogger get together that was supposed to be meeting somewhere near the space needle, but which I couldn't find to save my life). I'm not sure why I found it disappointing, either. Maybe it was because it was just Melissa and myself walking around together. The Fair is best enjoyed in a group, I think.

That, and Melissa beat me in a head-to-head match-up in a NASCAR driving game, and that, friends, just shouldn't have happened, because she reminded me of my defeat for the next eight hours. Granted, I would have done the same to her, but still. I mean, it was a driving game. And I got beat! By a GIRL!

Thankfully, Mel lives within walking distance of the Fairgrounds, because driving there and finding a parking spot would have driven me insane. It was slightly amusing, lazily walking along, easily passing about fifty automobiles lined up trying to get into the Fair parking lots. I wanted to point and yell "Neener Neener!"

Posted by Ryan at 03:28 PM | Comments (3)

September 03, 2004


First, take a look at this, which is a screen capture saved by an alert Web slinger.

Then, head on over and read this, which basically shows how bloggers, yet again, act as the watchdogs of the Associated Press.

Was it bias? At first glance, I'd have to say yes. But then, I can also imagine an ambitious reporter filing the story, and maybe they did hear an isolated boo or two, and they decided to play up that angle. I don't know.

What I do know is that sensationalism sells, and the headline "Audience boos as Bush offers best wishes for Clinton's recovery" has a lot more punch than "Bush Offers Best Wishes For Clinton."

If there is a tape of the speech, it could lay this to rest rather quickly, and it could be a pretty damning indictment of the AP, and Big Media in general. Or, it could be proven right. Who knows?

UPDATE: Audio can be heard here. Whoever filed that report to the AP had best be reprimanded. Strongly reprimanded.

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


My blogging has basically sucked recently, I'll admit it, and I do apologize for the suckiness. I do, however, have an excuse, and that excuse is that I have an actual job that, particularly during the last couple of weeks, has required a considerable amount of my time. And, since I get paid to do work, and I don't get paid to blog. . . well, you can see the bind I'm in.

If it means anything, I highly prefer blogging to my actual job. Perhaps someday I'll be called upon to blog for actual money. I won't hold my breath, of course, but hope springs eternal and all that.

In the meantime, of course, you can always play this.


Posted by Ryan at 11:22 AM | Comments (1)

September 01, 2004

Lost In The Shuffle

If you haven't dropped by Arrancia's site for awhile, as I hadn't, please do so now. A little strength and support, even of the bloggish variety, can go a long way. Right?

Posted by Ryan at 04:19 PM | Comments (5)

Scritchy Scratchy

Soooooo, you know how, awhile back, I wrote about how I shaved my arm pit hair down to a more manageable level?

And remember how I jokingly said I planned to conduct similar grooming operations on more private areas?

Welllllll. . .

Last weekend, the girlfriend showed up at my house after a visit to a local salon, where she also, unbeknownst to me, got a wax job, which was a great and happy surprise, let me tell you.

So, we were sitting around, and she started giving me crap about how I never did any grooming down around my area. Thus the gauntlet had been thrown down.

I went to the bathroom, fired up the clippers, and proceeded to go all Jason Biggs-American Wedding on my pelvic region. I should note here that, even though I laughed hysterically during that scene in American Wedding, I had no idea how true to reality it all was, except I didn't get my hairs stuck to a wedding cake or anything like that.

Still, today, I'm on day three of itching like crazy down there. I can't believe how much of a protest returning pubic hairs put on. It's like I'm being punished for something.

However, I'm told that it looks good down there, so there's that.

And yes, I know, you people are probably all grossed out by this. Now, if Plain Layne had written something like this, everyone would be turned on and commenting ferociously.

Admit it.

Posted by Ryan at 02:02 PM | Comments (8)
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