Just don't read this. It's not worth your time. You, the faithful FCN few, have better things to do with your time. Other posts preceding and following this one may entertain and enlighten, but not this one. This one's sole purpose is to increase our post count.
If there's one thing we pride ourselves on here at FCN (we know, we know ...) it's being frequent posters. Constantly putting up new material means people keep checking back to see in what embarrassing position we've just managed to cram ourselves. We post often, and, we like to think, we post well.
This is not one of those times.
This post has no content whatsoever. It contains no news, no personal stories, no social critique, no interviews, no political commentary. Nothing. Zip. Nadacha. But the time has come for us to post something, and we can think of nothing whatsoever to say. Hence this post.
If you've read this far, I want you to stop and think very seriously about how you spend your time. Why do you, the discriminating reader, choose to consume a product that even the producer warns is to be avoided? Is there something about FCN that you can't get away from? Something addictive? Something primal?
If so, we suggest you take a long vacation. Start by going around the house in search of power sockets. Wherever you find one, check to see if there is a cord running into the wall. Remove any and all such cords.
Live at least a week in this condition before checking back on FCN. We have no life - at least we can warn you before it's too late.
And so it appears that, against our best efforts, some content has weaseled its way into this post. Oh well. One of the other writers is posting tomorrow. He might have something more interesting to say. Check back then.
Friday, March 30, 2007
Just don't read this. It's not worth your time. You, the faithful FCN few, have better things to do with your time. Other posts preceding and following this one may entertain and enlighten, but not this one. This one's sole purpose is to increase our post count.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
We set up a date at a medium speed food establishment across the street from school. It wasn’t anything high brow, just a short meal over which we could introduce ourselves and get all the relationship pleasantries resolved. No drama, no flowers, no European greetings.
When I chatted with Luce on the phone, I heard a fairly nondescript all-American voice. She laughed a lot, but that might be more nerves than personality. Her accent was Southern Californian; more cultured than Tahoe but less snotty than San Francisco. Her “Ss” were solid, but not lisped or whistled. She didn’t have a drawl and her verbal pauses were more “like” and “you know” than “um” and “uh.” I had her pegged for blond, like Lindsay who took my picture, but wasn’t completely confident in my assessment.
As I sat parked outside the bistro (if “bistro” is a suitable name for a “sit down, but hurry up” eatery), the last few lines of Hannah Montana’s If We Were a Movie echoing in my head, I wondered once again if this might be a trap. I looked around at the restaurant’s entrances, but didn’t notice anything suspicious. I glanced in my rear view mirrors the way the Government Agents do in the movies, but was disappointed to find that no MAC-10 carrying villain was drawing a bead on me.
Sorry, this is beginning to sound more like Desperate Student than the “crush” series. But you get my point; I was still suffering from a deep seated suspicion that some of my guy friends, maybe some of the guys from the track team, were playing a mean trick on me.
Before the questions could become too nagging, I left the comfort of my car behind and went to meat Luce.
The cool restaurant air was a welcome break to the early spring warmth and it took a moment for my eyes to adjust after the brightness outside. A few seconds after becoming acclimated to my surroundings, I found the store's only solo female customer and she had her back turned. Her hair was blond, as I had deduced from the auditory analysis and she seemed to be waiting for someone.
That's when it hit me like a two by four at a construction site: How should I go about introducing myself? Saying "hi" on a phone is a radically different undertaking than meeting someone for the first time in person. The tête à tête is so much more personal than speedial and it was the one part of our date that I hadn't prepared through and devoted significant mental energy to analyzing. Maybe this whole thing was beyond me; the pervasive feeling that I was out of my league was coming unmuzzled.
Before my thoughts could become paralyzing, I tapped the solo customer on her shoulder and introduced myself.
She turned around and smiled. Her eyes were bright and young and her teeth had the Colgate glint.
"Yes?" She looked expectant.
No immediate recognition? No "it's so good to finally meet you?" No "have a seat?" Just a simple "yes?" I was more than a little flummoxed.
That's when it hit me. Maybe she was trying to play hard to get. Maybe she felt her seeking me out had given her a vulnerable position in our relationship and wanted to remedy that by making me uncomfortable on our first date.
You see folks? I was foolish to think that I understood women.
"Do you mind if I join you?" I kept my face confident and did not let my features betray my earlier deliberations.
"Actually I am waiting for someone..." Her voice trailed off as she shrugged toward the door.
After a couple more awkward exchanges I found out her name was Ashley and she wasn't waiting for me. Actually her boyfriend would be getting off work any minute now and she "kinda wanted to be seated alone" when he entered the restaurant. I walked away from the table and returned to my car flushed with embarrassment.
Did Luce and I mix up the restaurants or lose track of times?
I opened my cellular and dialed Luce's number. I got her voicemail and left a message explaining what I could of the mix up, although I left out the part about Ashley having young eyes. By the time I hung up, a seeping suspicion had tickled its way up my spine and I once again wondered whether Luce was real or an invention fabricated by my male friends to have some chuckles. The fact that she didn't show up was certainly evidence for that argument.
My head was tied up in a pretzel and thinking about Luce was becoming painful. I looked at the clock radio and noticed I had a few minutes to get back to class. I sped across the intersection and pushed Luce out of my mind long enough to focus on a Soil Science lecture.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
After my late morning foreign language class last week, I settled down for lunch at the campus canteen with a couple of my fellow students. One, Tony, an avid soccer player and regular running partner, was a frequent lunchtime mate. The other, Amanda, the girl who sits behind me and to my right in class and can say twenty words in at least twenty languages, came along for the (English) conversation.
And converse we did. Over tasty pepperoni pizza, a turkey sandwich with all the fixings and a cream cheese filled pretzel (my favorite canteen fare), we battled wits the way only college students can. That is, we used mutters, grunts and urban dictionary slang to express our most aesthetic of emotions.I am not sure what superfluous topic of conversation we were dealing with when Amanda looked up, a smile in her eyes, and said: “That’s funny. I read something like that a while back; have you ever heard of Funny Class Notes?”
Before going further, it is important for the reader to understand that while I am a highly egotistical person, I don’t go about introducing random classmates to FCN. It would just be too embarrassing to have all my fellow students reading the slanderous things I write about them. They would recognize the nuggets of truth that permeate these episodes and would no doubt take offense at the way their comments and actions are turned into comedy.
I had certainly never told Amanda about FCN.
Even more amazing was that Amanda was able to recognize not only the fact that she was familiar with whatever it was that jogged her FCN memory, but that the content was originally from it. She didn’t think “oh, I read that online somewhere” or "I think some idiot said that on the radio," but instead thought “that’s from FCN.”
Not only had she connected the synapses and deduced the link between her auditory sensory data and FCN, but she felt the need to spread the good FCN word. She had asked me if I had ever heard of it; an obvious attempt to make me into a regular reader. Amanda wasn’t just one of the faithful FCN few, she was a missionary!
Also understand that I pretty much write the way I speak. The kinds of odd, socially unacceptable phrases that you all put up with so routinely tend to bubble out of me in conversation like foam out of beer. FCN posts are a rare glimpse into the chaos of the male mind and I have a penchant for expressing my inner madness with perverse regularity. If I am in my comfort zone, everyone else is in the splash zone. It’s true. Just ask my therapist.
These thoughts, and a few others, crossed my cream cheese inebriated mind in a matter of nanoseconds and I was ready with an answer, albeit an unimaginative one.
“Actually, yes. As a matter of fact, I am one of the writers for FCN. How in blue blazes did you hear about it?”
“My goodness, no!” Amanda looked excited. “I don’t know, a friend of mine told me about it a few months ago. Wow.”
That pretty much proves it. I didn’t know Amanda a few months ago.At that moment, another realization struck me. I had just encountered our third reader. Our web software was vague as to her identity and up to this point we had been assuming she was an agent of the Russian government who kept tabs on FCN for security reasons. This isn't to say it's impossible for Amanda to be a Russian agent, but it certainly casts a shadow of doubt on our tracking software, which was designed by dear old Uncle Wally.
With all the food gone, our conversation ended quickly thereafter and Tony, Amanda and I headed our separate ways. But the knowledge that an FCN reader, even an FCN missionary, could be just around the next corner will haunt me for a long time.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Don't FedEx five bags of Lays Potato Chips across the country for $106. It's not worth it.
Don't FedEx five pounds of hallucinogenic mushrooms across the country.
If you do FedEx hallucinogenic mushrooms across the country, don't hide them in five bags of Lay's Potato Chips.
It's hard out here for a Desperate Student.
After my last efforts at employment ended in a minor catastrophe, I went home and plopped myself into an old easy chair. I clicked on the TV and tuned it to the completely unbiased Cable News Network. There were reports of oil spills, plane crashes, and epidemics, but the news bulletin getting all the attention was a terrorist network that seemed to be headquartered - by an astonishing coincidence - in the very city I called home. Their latest attack had destroyed two gas stations and wiped out more than thirty passing cars. Hamas had taken responsibility for the attack.
I watched the screen, entranced, as political commentators speculated about the significance of a terrorist attack on a gas station. The Secretary of Homeland Bureaucracy made a short statement about how the safety of the American people was paramount (which is a fancy word for expensive). I was interrupted by a knock on the front door. I opened it, half-expecting to see a repentant Suzy asking me to give her another chance. Alas, it was not to be. Instead, I found two men in black suits, white shirts, thin white ties, floppy fedoras, non-reflective sunglasses, and earpieces. Their coats bulged ominously.
"Come in," I croaked. "Lemonade?"
"No thank you," Said the taller one. "This will only take a moment."
I took a deep breath, trying to calm down. "What can I do for you?" I asked.
"Your friends from the FDA recommended you for duty. We're told you're desperate for a job."
I nodded. "I'm desperate, but I don't have any friends in the FDA."
"In any case," Said the man, looking irritated, "The US government wants to hire you."
"What for this time?" I asked. "Being doused in acid, ignited, and dissected perhaps?"
"Nothing that dramatic."
"When do we start?"
As it turns out, the men were from the President's Secret Service detail. The President's latest body double had retired to the nearest hospice, leaving America's Number One shorthanded. Apparently I was the man for the job, and with modern technology, I didn't even have to look anything like the president. At least to begin with.
I was helped into an unmarked black sedan with tinted windows. It accelerated quickly and smoothly and headed for the interstate.
"Scalpel, this is Fisher," Said the driver. "We have the package."
"Copy that, Fisher. Standing by for arrival," Said the radio.
"Excuse me," I asked from the back. "Did you just refer to me as a package?"
"Shut up," The man said. I shut up.
We drove for many, many hours, all through the night. Just at sunrise, we pulled through some barbed wire fences into a well-defended compound in the middle of a desert. Men in white lab coats came out wheeling a gurney. The door to the back opened; I was helped out and a mask was clamped onto my face.
"Breathe," Said a voice in my ear. "That's it ... breathe ... breeeeeeathe."
I awoke in a hospital bed to the sound of my own heart rate, which sounded like the mating song of a male chickadee. I was surrounded by medical personnel, who were studying clipboards and monitors and completely ignoring me.
I cleared my throat. "Excuse me? Where am I?" The tall man who had recruited me, now wearing a white lab coat and dust mask over his usual outfit, extended a hand mirror.
"Take a look," He said.
I looked. I suppose I should not have been surprised to see the spitting image of George W Bush looking back at me. I did not react well.
"Creepy!" I screamed, throwing the mirror against the wall. It shattered, and bits of shiny glass tinkled down to the floor.
In unison, the medical personnel shouted: "Seven year's bad luck!" Then they all filed out quietly, except for the tall guy.
"I'm Jake," He said. "In a few hours, we'll be shipping out. The President is scheduled to give the keynote at the annual Radical Muslim Fundamentalists who Hate America convention in New York. You'll be giving the speech instead for safety reasons. In the mean time, you will be completely isolated from the outside world. When the speech is over, depending on how you did, you may be in for more jobs. Questions?"
"Yeah," I said. "Don't I get my one phone call?"
"Of course," Jake answered. He handed me a cell phone.
Naturally, I called a fellow FCN contributor and dictated this post to him. In a few hours, I'm headed for New York. I'll keep you posted, provided of course that I survive to tell the story.
Monday, March 26, 2007
Note: Though not written by a lawyer, the following disclaimer can help protect your blog against frivolous litigation. Simply cut and paste all but the first two paragraphs into your own disclaimer, post and enjoy. If you want to accompany your disclaimer with a snazzy graphic like the one above, use this. When you are done, a thankful hyperlink is appreciated.
Heretofore and unto now, this blogger hosted weblog has had to rely exclusively on the blanket disclaimer provided for the corporate body of blog*spot addresses. While this kind of disclaimer is usually sufficient to protect a blogger from liability, it falls short when dealing with inherently offensive content, websites with a mind of their own and authors who are excessively paranoid about being dragged into court. With the above firmly borne in mind, FCN proposes the following weblog disclaimer:
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Friday, March 23, 2007
I know that in writing this I am undoubtedly communicating to a passel of aspiring linguists who have a rudimentary understanding of every tongue spoken on the seven continents (and then some, if our faithful few are prone to “inventing” languages), so please bear with your author who, though bilingual, knows about as much of most languages as he does quantum physics, which isn't much.
Anyone ever used Google Translator? The website is a lifesaver when it comes to interpreting obscure foreign languages encountered on the web. You just type in the text and BOOM, like some David Copperfield episode, the text is transformed into the language of your choice.
Only it doesn't always work so brilliantly.
Languages vary by a zillion different factors that keep us amateurs confused and professional translators in the cheese. They vary in idiom, syntax, conjugation and pronunciation; even their tenses are different. A word in English could mean the exact opposite in another language (Don't try saying “tootles” in England; I learned the hard way.)
If you have traveled in a foreign country and read the translated tourist signs, you probably believe, as I do, that many cheap businesses use online translators instead of professional human beings to aid their communication to American tourists. Think of it as linguistic plagiarism: Many companies try to skate away from costs by connecting to the ol' WWW and finding out what to say for themselves and, not surprisingly, most fail miserably. For example, a sign in one Morrocan shop reads "Here speeching American." Yeah, right.
You can't escape from the curse of Babel that cheaply!
Here at the FCN lab, we took a simple phrase and ran it through the linguistic grinder. We wanted a sentence that we could use against any malicious people who looked like they might beat us up in a dark ally. You know how dangerous foreign countries can be and its good to have a snazzy line to pull out if someone suspicious starts following you. Well, we gave it the old college try, but our results looked more like linguine than language.
Here's the breakdown:
Original: If anyone follows us, we will ditch them, we will cream them, we will squash them, we will pound them into the ground and tear them to pieces.I can just see calling a mugger thin and syrupy.
French: Si n'importe qui nous suit, nous les entourerons de fossés, nous les écrémerons, nous sirop les, nous les martèlerons dans le sol et les déchirerons aux morceaux.
French Translation: If no matter who follows us, we will surround them by ditches, we will skim them, us syrup them, we will hammer them in the ground and will tear them with the pieces.
German: Wenn jeder uns folgt, werden wir sie mit Gräben umgeben, wir werden sie abrahmen wir Sirup sie, wir werden sie im Boden hämmern und sie werden an den Stücken zerreißen.
German Translation: If everyone follows us, we are surrounded it with ditches, we will them skim we syrup them, we to become them in the soil hammer and them at the pieces will tear up.
Chinese: 如果我们每个人以下,这与我们四周沟渠,我们将他们我们糖浆, 我们成为他们和他们的土锤片将撕毁.
Chinese Translation: If each one of us, which shows us around drains, we will be their skim syrup. We become their hammer and they will tear up the soil.
Russian: Если каждый из нас, который показывает нам около водосточных систем, мы будем их сироп. Мы стали их молотком, и они будут уничтожать землю.
Russian Translation: If each one of us, which shows us about the drains, we are going to skim syrup. We have to hammer, and they will destroy the land.
Korean: 하수구에 관하여 저희를 보여주는, 우리 각자가 우리 가는 경우에 시럽을 우리는 망치로 쳐야 하고, 그들은 땅을 파괴할 것이다.
Korean Translation: Regarding the drain it shows us, our each one us it is thin in case the syrup skim. We must hit with the hammer, them will destroy the ground.
“Oh, you're going to destroy my land!”
The pronunciations on some of those languages look brutal. Take the Korean, for instance. What do you do with “하?” Does that have some kind of phonetic significance or does it mean what it looks like it means, a fat man and his date?
Seriously though, stores should stop forging their own trials through the quagmires of language and hire qualified experts for assistance. I, for one, would be happy to volunteer.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Don't try to burgle your neighbor's flat.
If you do try to burgle your neighbor's flat, don't try to pick the lock on the door with a credit card.
If you do try to burgle your neighbors flat and pick his lock with your credit card, don't use your own credit card.
If you try to pick your neighbors lock with your own credit card and the credit card breaks in two, don't leave one half at the scene of the crime and the other on your kitchen table.
Not to be overly cynical, but what is life, but an endless string of retractions, corrections and apologies? When we're born, we are too young to feel any remorse, but penitence is soon spanked into us when we misbehave as toddlers. As teenagers, we make more mistakes than good decisions and apologies are cheaper than restitution, so we beg our way through a multitude of faux pas. Even as adults, our life follows the same cycle; apologies to the in-laws, neighbors, boss. Even the milkman gets a token expression of regret (“Sorry about the accident; the milk actually looks pretty good spilled all over the interstate, doesn't it?).
As Descartes would say, “I think, therefore I am sorry.”
No matter how much you try to avoid it, an apology is invariably just around the corner. Here at FCN we experience the apology routine with all the regularity of any other poorly adjusted bunch of derelict students. At any one point we are either offending someone, begging their forgiveness or, very rarely, offering forgiveness of our own. It's an endless cycle we always find ourselves on the cusp of.
This fact holds true beyond the interpersonal realm. In blogging, for instance, especially humor blogging, people take offense almost as often as they laud a post (not more often, thank goodness). But when someone is offended, they are ten times as likely to voice their disconent as someone who actually liked FCN content.
You should see some of the hate mail we get! I think one of the faithful FCN few terminally deranged; an amaranthine wart on our small but loyal readership.
Take, for example, the following piece of message whose vitriol was directed at yesterday's post:
FCN,And to think, the best insult she could come up with was “scum sucking pond dweller!” Most hate mail is much more creatively colorful.
I think you guys are a bunch of scum sucking pond dwellers. Your post about eating Taquitos (3/21/07) was offensive both for the way it characterized Mexican-Americans and the inference it made about those who struggle with compulsive eating. How terribly insensitive of you!
Awaiting your apology,
A Loyal Reader
We here at FCN are very frugal with our time. We can't just go around answering everyone who thinks we live at the bottom of lakes and streams. The latest in Halo technology, sleep, food and the fairer gender are perpetually occupying our energies and it really cramps our style to have to say “I'm sorry” to the first Jack with a complaint.
In the real world it's often true that simple nod will substitute for a ten minute teary eyed conversation and make the violated feel whole again, but the impersonal cyber-existence of a blog makes such expressions useless. For some reason many folks just don't feel “made new” by a Facebook poke.
Fortunately, the Internet has enabled us to apologize for bad actions before they are ever committed and avoid the laborious task of cleaning up our messes after the fact. The following A Priori Apology template should be sufficient to the task:
Dear ___________,In the case of the young woman complaining about our Taquitos post, this apology read:
We are terribly sorry for _________________________________. We in no way intended to offend your ____________________ and sincerely regret your __________________. We will, in the future, make every attempt to satisfy your desires and steer clear of any subject matter or terminology that will cause you anxiety. Please accept the attached discount for prescription strength Vicodin as a token of our remorse and a sign of our willingness to improve.
Dear Awaiting,Of course, if that doesn't work, we'll have to unplug ourselves from real life and deal with the problem personally. But the A Priori Apology should take care of most cases.
We are terribly sorry for offending you with our reference to our hard working neighbors to the south. We in no way intended to offend your sensibilities and sincerely regret your thin skinned personality. We will, in the future, make every attempt to satisfy your desires and steer clear of any subject matter or terminology that will cause you anxiety. Please accept the attached discount for prescription strength Vicodin as a token of our remorse and a sign of our willingness to improve.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
The other day I ate a whole mess of Taquitos.
I went to the freezer and opened a large blue box of El Monterey Steak and Cheese Flour Taquitos. The box said 24 count, but I didn't intend to eat all of them. I put the box in the kitchen by the microwave, tore open the sealable plastic inner packaging and laid a handful of frozen Taquitos on a microwavable plate.
I wasn't hungry, it was just the time to eat. There were healthier foods in the house, even more convenient faire, had I looked for it, but Taquitos were a comfort food. Just watching them rotate slowly on the turntable reminded me of their salty aftertaste and rich flavor. The microwave's gentle hum had a prozaic effect and the morning's stress seemed temporarily repulsed by the thought of Americanized-Mexican finger food.
When the microwave beeped, my appetite had improved and I tore into the first Taquito quickly. It was still a little cold in the middle, but that didn't bother me. It tasted just the way I rememberd it and my stomach was ignited to the possibility of more Taquitos. I finished the plate quickly and, before anyone saw what I was doing or my voice of reason could interrupt my decision-making, I grabbed another handful of Taquitos and started the microwave again.
As the next batch heated, my stomach sent a message to my brain saying that it was pretty close to full and that no more food was really needed to satisfy the hunger requirement. My brain treated the message the way the CIA treats urgent FBI bulletins.
The next batch seemed to have less flavor than the first, but I wolfed it down as well and started on a third.
I ate the third plate of Taquitos while touching up my Philosophy term paper. In one greasy hand I shoved morsel after morsel toward my gullet while the digits on my other appendage helped explain Descartes' Cogito.
I wondered briefly if the Taquito has feelings and mental formations we might call thoughts. But I didn't wonder for long.
My plate again depleted, I returned to the kitchen for more. This trip wasn't out of hunger or even desire for more, it was just habit. One eats at lunchtime and Taquitos are food. The eating doesn't stop until the food is gone and, since none of my brothers were there to join me in devouring the box, I was alone in fulfilling the Taquito task.
The fourth plate emptied the box, and it felt strange to throw away the now vacant packaging which had been so full of calories a few moments before.
It was kind of hard to eat the fourth plate. My stomach was now sending urgent bullitens to my brain to stop the incoming nutrients and now and again my mouth had to fight against the gag impulse. But I got them down.
I felt heavy. Five minutes after the last Taquito it hurt to stand up. Ten minutes afterward, my stomach felt bloated and tight. I had to loosen my belt by three notches. Twenty minutes later I got really thirsty. But the crazy thing about the thirst was that I didn't want to drink anything. My stomach was too stuffed for fluids. Thirty minutes later I decided to write this post.
I dug the box out of the trash and looked at the Nutrition Facts. The serving size was Two Taquitos (230 calories, 12g of fat, 490 miligrams of sodium); I had eaten 24. After a quick visit with my computer's calculator (I was too stiff to get up and get my own), I found that in the last fifteen minutes, I had consumed 2,760 calories, 144 grams of fat and 5,880 miligrams of sodium or over 240% of my daily value of salt. No wonder I was thirsty.
That evening I tried to eat a normal meal and, to my surprise, was successful. Five hours after the Taquito binge, I was ready to approach the dinner table again. My Gastrointestinal tract was unphrased by the barage of calories and my body was ready and willing to take additional punishment.
I don't suggest the Mess of Taquitos as a daily meal plan -- the activity is not without side effects -- but it was a good experience and one I may repeat if habit and hunger permit.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
My life was in the dumps. I was ... okay, you don't read this blog to hear me whining about my pathetic life. If you do, please consult previous episodes. You'll get a nice bellyful. Let's skip the review and dig straight into the gory details of the plot.
My roomie forced me to get a job. I wasn't spectacularly motivated about it until he started passing threats about starvation. Then they escalated to threats about setting my Tom Cruise poster on fire, then of dumping the shattered bits of his former laptop onto me while I was in the shower. Next thing I knew, I was sitting at the public library surfing Monster.Com.
Lo and behold, an ad was sitting there that fit me to a T.
"WANTED: Unscrupulous fellow willing to risk incineration so his company can get a microscopic lead over the competitor in exchange for minimum wage and no benefits."
I called the advertiser, which happened to be an Exxon gas station. Within minutes, I was hired. I showed up the next day, showered and ready to begin work.
"Welcome to duty," Said the manager. This struck me as a distinctly inauspicious way to get started. "Take a look out the window. What do you see?"
I looked. "A Chevron station," I replied.
"Very good," Said the manager. "You're working for us, but you are not working with us. You are working with those people over there."
"I don't understand."
"Yes, yes, very good. Gas stations can be very dangerous places. There's lots of gasoline flowing out of them. To be safe, federal law requires that there be an emergency shut-off switch in the back of the building. If there is a gas leak, you can throw the switch and the station is shut down. It takes about two hours to get everything running again."
"I don't understand ..."
"That's because you're not listening. I want you to go over to the Chevron station and throw their switch."
I hesitated. This seemed too easy. "Throw the switch," I said. "That's it?"
"That's it. Then you can hang out here doing whatever you want and collecting minimum wage."
I kissed his feet. Then I went outside and walked around the target, sizing it up. I saw the shutoff switch in a prominent place in the back of the building next to the machine people use to inflate inner tubes. I looked both ways to make sure no one was looking, then casually walked up the switch, hands in pockets, whistling merrily.
The switch was about six inches long with a large red handle. I closed my hand around it and pulled it down. A high-pitched siren started and the lights inside the building turned off.
I walked away as casually as I could, still whistling. I heard a Chevron employee screaming that everyone should run for their lives. Several minutes later, I was back at Exxon, watching the mayhem through the window. Fire trucks pulled up, all kinds of detectors and meters were presented, measurements were taken. People postulated and muttered. Then they shook their heads and threw their hands in the air. Then they shouted at each other and shook their fists. Then they all left and the lights came back on. I looked at the clock. The Chevron station had been down for two and a half hours. The lines for the Exxon pumps ran into the street.
"We've done it!" Shouted the manager, clapping me on the back. "I'm a genius!"
Then a high-pitched wail sounded from the back room and the lights clicked off. Customers started fleeing the Exxon station in all directions. Some jumped out of their cars and ran. The panic was immense. A few people were trampled into the pavement.
"No!" Shouted the manager from the front door. "Come back! It's a false alarm!" His efforts were futile. Within minutes, the place was deserted.
The manager clenched his fists in silent rage. "Go back and shut them down again," He ordered.
"But I already ..."
"I'll pay you double!"
I went. I circled around to the back and peeked around the corner. The Chevron station was empty at the moment, save for the manager, who was filling up at the pump. He looked up for a split second and our eyes met. Recognition flashed across his face.
"You!" He cried. He vaulted over his car and raced toward me. I abandoned the lever and ran. A Chevron employee leapt out from behind a dumpster.
"Gotcha!" He shouted, waving a wrench menacingly. I reversed directions and accelerated past the Chevron manager just as his bulk was rounding the corner. The man bellowed and dug his heels into the ground, changing course. I heard the screech of rubber on asphalt.
As I dashed past the pumps, I noticed that the Chevron manager's unattended car was brimming with gasoline. In fact, there was a growing pool of it under his car that already covered most of the front area in a thin layer. I dodged into traffic and glanced behind me. No one was following. Then I saw the manager, partially obscured behind the building, pulling the emergency shutoff switch.
Time seemed to move slowly. A tiny flake of old metal crusted off the switch as it was pulled and ignited from the friction as it went. A single spark. It fell to the ground and sat there for a millisecond. Then there was a flash of light and a tremendous boom. Cars were picked up and tossed over my head into the Exxon station, causing tremendous damage. When the smoke cleared, all that remained was a thoroughly blackened Chevron manager holding a two-inch handle.
I shoved my hands into my pockets, struck up a merry tune, and went wee, wee, wee all the way home.
Monday, March 19, 2007
This post was supposed to go up last Saturday, but someone played a "practical joke" on me and threw my laptop into the state-of-the-art pool. The person responsible "accidentally" fell from a high flight of stairs and I now have a new laptop.
Apologies for the delay. Here is the post.
I awoke to the sound of screaming girls.
It was 6:30, and everyone was starting to get up. Yesterday went down in (swimming) history as a day of infamy. Today went down in history as a day of pain. Our muscles were tight and cramped from the "kicking sets" of the swimming workout (and running from the guards who wanted the duckie back). Our biceps were swollen from the "pulling sets" (and from lifting so many trays of food). We rolled out of bed, incoherent in the early morning hours. After everyone was ready, the group limped to the pool. The guards at the entrance glared at us as we entered. We noticed shiny new tasers tangling by their sides and lost all hope of saving the duckie.
As we began to warm up, two tall figures entered the vicinity of the pool area. One, an incredibly buff woman, introduced herself to the group as Sheila. The other, a really tough-looking guy, told us his name name was Hunter. Turns out they were both world class athletes. I was amazed by the coincidence.
After practice (I'm told that's what it was; I have no memory of it), we decided to take a tour of the Colorado Training Center, (after all, the swim facility makes up only a small portion of the dozens of buildings). Our first stop, simply known as Sports Center I, is basically a gymnasium. What's not clear on the map is that the building is actually made up of 9 smaller gymnasiums that cover 54,000 square feet. Sports center II is even bigger, topping out just over 59,000 square feet. What's really impressive, however, is the Pierre de Coubertin museum, which covers 78,000 square feet.
We then visited the velodrome and shooting centers. After surviving an encounter with a sniper-toting 13 year old (whom I presume must be a very accurate shot considering she's at one of the top three shooting ranges in the world), we made out way to the 8 million dollar visitor's center. Like the pool facilities, more cameras. Fortunately, there were no duckies that needed rescuing, and after (legally) collecting a few souvenirs, we make our way back to the pool for our second swim practice of the day.
This time, there were paralympians swimming at the same time as us in the opposite side of the pool. There were two important differences between us and them: first, they were all seriously disabled, whereas we were all hail and hardy. Second, they could swim about twice as fast as us. Like the other Olympians, they didn't have any secret trick. It's not the good food, bad desserts, or the cool facility, or rubber duckies. Just what makes an Olympian remains an open question. But some day, I aim to find out.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Don't try to sneak across the border illegally.
If you do try to sneak across the border illegally, don't make the attempt through a tunnel the size of a storm drain.
If you do try to sneak across the border illegally through a tunnel the size of a storm drain, make sure you are not over 200 pounds.
If you try to sneak across the border illegally through a tunnel the size of a storm drain and there is a 200 pound man in your company, make sure you get through the drain before he does.
Thanks to Mary for the tip.
Friday, March 16, 2007
I awoke once again to the sounds of my Ipod, as I had so many other mornings. But this morning was different. I was not getting up for breakfast, or for school, or for a 4:30 swim practice - I was awaking for what was to be one of the most testing experiences of my life.
You, the faithful FCN few, must think that testing experiences are common-place for us hazard-ridden satire authors. While it is true to some extent that we often live every day as if it's our last, truly testing experiences (the kind that will smash toenails and grow chest hair) are few and far between. But you could figure that out just by looking at our chests.
The chosen swimmers, among whom I am proud to count myself, are required to be on the swim deck by 7:30, so, after another visit to the carb court, we trudged to the front gate of the swimming facility and got scanned in. With a buzz the doors opened and we entered an Olympic size (yes, state-of-the-art) indoor pool. But the buzzing door was not the only level of security. When we entered the building, we quickly became aware of all the video cameras watching our every move (or every bad stroke as it turned out). Surly Orwellian guards monitored us from video cameras in an adjoining room. The door of the room had a yellow sign showing a surly Orwellian guard above the letters XING.
The pool facility consisted of hallway and corridors encircling the entire pool. There were dozens of rooms for meetings (or swim conferences) that covered the two story building. The first floor, which is where the pool was, had a twenty foot ceiling, coated with more cameras covering every possible embarrassing angle.
The actual pool area consisted of cool diving blocks, a giant locker room with showers, "instant" suit dryers, a huge hot tub, lots of gear baskets filled with fins, paddles, goggles, inner tubes, noodles, and rubber duckies. As if all the upscaled basics weren't enough, the pool had an under/above water camera that followed a swimmer from every conceivable angle, just in case you were trying to steal an extra pair of goggles while you thought no one was looking. Even better, pulleys that could drag you from one side of the pool to the other allowed me to swim just short of the Olympic record for the 50 meter free. Something to write home about.
Two hours later, we finished practice. Feeling slightly tired and very secure, we returned once again to the carb court, scanned our hands, watched a few lame 007 moves, and began eating.
If the story ended here, you might be able to put this on an inspiring tales website. But the story doesn't stop here.
We had finally reached "the good part" of the movie (I'll leave to your imagination which part of Sean Connery is the good part) when various swim personnel came in blowing whistles and dragged us back into the pool. I had an emotional parting with my duckie, who said he'd never forget me as long as he lived.
The rest of the day blended into the oh-so-familiar process of swimming back and forth, back and forth, back and forth ... back and forth ... back ... and forth ... and forth ... and so on ... and so forth ...
By the time we returned to our beds at 7:00 pm, we were dead tired. Not too tired, however, to stay up a few extra minutes and write this post. Writing for FCN requires a special part of the brain not normally used for swimming, eating, or sleeping.
If I have learned one thing so far on this trip it is this: Olympians are not elite athletes because they train at a state-of-the art facility. Why they are elite athletes remains to be seen. I have two more days to find out.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Because of my swimming attendance record, I was granted the privilege of practicing in the Colorado Olympic Training Center with ten other hand picked individuals from my swim team.
As I sit here in this state-of-the-art training facility, in the state-of-the-art computer lab typing on a new state-of-the-art computer, I have come to the conclusion that, while it is immensely cruel and abusive to be forced to swim in the morning, working out in the (state-of-the-art) Colorado Olympic Training Center isn't so bad. When one has a state-of-the-art Colorado Olympic Training Center to wake up to, mornings come later in the day.
Our team left from Sacramento Airport at 6:00. We had to get up at 3:30 to be on time for our departure, and while some of us are used to getting up early, the early exit created a very grouchy group of irritable and tired swimmers (Interestingly enough, we landed in Salt Lake City to switch planes; we hadn't yet had breakfast and we had already traveled to two of the great Olympic Cities of the United States).
After a connection on a short flight that was bumpy enough to turn our sweat suits into bundles of crewel, we found ourselves in a very clean Colorado Springs Airport. A (you guessed it) state-of-the-art bus, that felt very much like an old Greyhound, was sent by the Training Facility to pick us up and drove us to a massive swimming complex. Having unpacked, we walked to the (do I really need to keep saying this?) state-of-the-art food court.
Now I understand that there have been rumors floating around about FCN. Some trouble makers seem to think that the stories are so sensationally twisted that the truth is left far behind. Others think we just make up our posts as we go along. Of course, being an FCN contributor, I'm obligated to say that all those rumors are a bunch of Kool-Aid. But even if you don't believe me on those other posts, please let your guard down on this one. This one is real. It's extra-super true, even more than those other posts. I know you may not believe me. But it's true, swimmer's honor.
Back to the account.
A guard standing in the front of the building took my room key, confirmed I really had payed my dues to the Olympic committee, and scanned my hand on a scanner. A HAND scanner, like in the sci-fi movies! I felt like an MIB until I remembered the speedos under my sweats.
We walked into the massive, beautifully painted room in awe. Piles of food obscured all four corners. We started by going through the salad bar, then to the carbohydrate table, and, in case that wasn't good enough, a chef promised to cook any (well, almost any) food we asked for, even if wasn't on that day's menu, provided it didn't have any protein.
On the opposite side of the building was a fruit bar and dessert table, filled with low-fat ice cream, "healthy" pastries, and other guilt free, training desserts. This was arguably the food court's chief disadvantage; the faithful FCN few are no doubt aware that guilt equals flavor and some of the desserts were drier than a John Kerry campaign speech.
Having completed the first "scanning in", I can now simply walk up to the door, put my hand on the scanner, and eat to my heart's content. Now if only if I could find my black tie and sunglasses ...
It's been a long day, full of hours of plane travel and buckets of training food. How does that song go? "Yo ho, yo ho, a swimmer's life for me."
I write this post on my bed, tired, satisfied, and eager. Tomorrow, the training begins.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
At long last, after several long bleak winter months and some intermittent rain, the Great Meteorologist saw fit to bless this land with a little sunshine. And He did so in oodles. It was really bright outside. It was so bright that...
...Normal American citizens were buying sunglasses like so many obese people at a fastfood giveaway.
...The paint melted off Nancy Pelosi's face.
...California's roads got that much worse.
...Travis broke a sweat.
...The UV rays killed ants without the help of a magnifying lens.
...Earthly vegetation began producing oxygen through photosynthesis at a frenetic pace.
...Al Gore produced a new documentary on the dangers of excessive oxygen in the atmosphere.
...Eight federal prosecutors resigned, just so they could get some time off work and absorb some rays.
...Botox flowed from Arnold's forehead to the nape of his neck.
...The ground gave up hope of more rain.
...Bush 41 got dehydrated.
...The coyotes shut down cross border transit to issue sombreros.
...Google got sunburned.
An FCN reader sent us the following rendition of the lyrics to Harnick and Bock's If I Were A Rich Man. If you are unfamiliar with the classic from Fiddler on the Roof, please listen to this audio clip before continuing.
Dear God, you made many, many slim people.
I realize, of course, that it's no shame to be slim.
But it's no great honor either!
So, what would have been so terrible if I had a small gut eh?"
If I were a fat man,
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
All day long I'd eat and eat and eat.
If I were a fatter man.
I'd look like a mountain.
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
If I were a biddy biddy fat,
I'd build a big tall house to room my circumfrance,
Right in the middle of the town.
A fine tin roof with thick wooden floors below.
There would be one strong staircase just going up,
And one even stronger coming down,
And one great kitchen set up for my food.
I'd fill my yard with chicks and turkeys and geese and ducks
For me to roast and eat
And each loud "cheep" and "swaqwk" and "honk" and "quack"
Would land like a trumpet on the ear,
As if to say "Here lives a fatty man."
If I were a fat man,
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
All day long I'd eat and eat and eat.
If I were a fatter man.
I'd look like a mountain.
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
If I were a biddy biddy fat,
I see my wife, my Golde, looking like a fat man's wife
With a proper double-chin.
Supervising meals to her heart's delight.
I see her putting on airs and strutting like a peacock.
Oy, what a happy mood she's in.
Screaming at the servants, day and night.
The most important men in town would come to help feed me!
They would ask me to advise them,
Like Ted Kennedy the Fat.
"If you please, Reb Tevye..."
"Which food, Reb Tevye..."
Posing problems that would cross a cook's eyes!
And it won't make one bit of difference if i answer right or wrong.
When you're fat, they think you really know!
If I were fat, I'd have the gut that I lack
To sit in the fast food place and eat.
And maybe have a booth in an In-N-Out.
And I'd discuss the cooking books with the learned men, several hours every day.
That would be the sweetest thing of all.
If I were a fat man,
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
All day long I'd eat and eat and eat.
If I were a fatter man.
I'd look like a mountain.
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
If I were a biddy biddy fat,
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Why do females spend so much time and energy trying to alter their natural features? Why do they mess up their innate looks with so much latex paint? We don’t know. But fear not brave men, for the FCN lab, although unable to answer the why, is researching the what! In the following report, the explanations of the various cosmetics and their uses will be revealed.
The name basically says it all - a powdery substance applied to the face to give the appearance that that the female has red cheeks. Why any girl would want to look like she is embarrassed is a question that has been unanswered by modern science. The lab promises more research.
2. Eye shadow
A dark shading applied around the eyes. This gives the appearance that the girl is very tired and lacking of sleep. More questions.
We asked all the girls on the swim team why they wear mascara. Answers – 0. The only thing we can tell our fellow males about it is that is smears like crazy when wet. The difference between Mascara and eye shadow is puzzling as well.
4. Nail polish
A paint that is used for the coloring of nails. The shades can range from a light, natural pink to a puke-hued orange. Some girls even go so far as to paint their nails a rotten colored ebony. Why any female would want to have her nails the same black shade as they are before they fall off is currently unknown.
Colorful, shiny stuff applied to the lips. Another example of a widely used product with no apparent purpose. What’s with the sparkly anyway? I know we aren’t support to ask rhetorical questions, but this one was called for. Now they are making blue lipstick – the scientific results of the FCN lab determine that this is very scary!
Fellow men, although we may never understand why the girls go to such lengths for what appears frivolous to us, understanding the lady's daily activities gives us a greater appreciation of their perseverance.I know, that really doesn't help us out much. If a female reader can supply the reasons behind these facial paints, we'd all be much obliged.
Monday, March 12, 2007
That's right. The can says exactly what you think it says:
Yet Sierra Mist "Free" (made by PepsiCo) costs 40 cents a can. Even if you twist the definition, the soda is not without cost. That's why some people say that the "free" slogan is a bunch of bull. When we first saw Sierra Mist, we got the sudden urge to give you all a slice of our thoughts. The three of us over here at FCN don't feel we have the time to be tricked and, while we don't want to bark up a storm, this is blatant false advertising. In fact, we consider the folks at PepsiCo almost as deceptive as the witch who tricked Snow White. Their mothers must be ashamed.
Some people say this isn't deceptive; we think that's just gay! Yoo Hoo! Any smart person can see that Sierra Mist "Free" isn't free! According to Encarta, free means, "costing nothing: requiring no money to be paid." A cow could win the argument against this one. Not only is Sierra Mist "Free" expensive, but you have to pay for gas to go to a store on top of Pepsi's list price. With fuel over three dollars a gallon, the visit to the supermarket alone is expensive.
The people at Sierra Mist's advertising department may think this is all very fine and pretty, but we don't. Mr. Pibb and Dr. Pepper noted in their scholarly paper, "Big, Bossy, Beverage Companies", that the new Sierra Mist is anything but free. Fitz, the truck driver said, "It ain't free, if it ain't free". Martha Stewart, the maid, told us she thinks it is unfair. My dad's take on all this is that if free doesn't mean free, frogs might as well be dogs. Hank the janitor doesn't like it either.
The guy who started string of lies deserves a fat lip. This deception is a spot on PepsiCo's record. We need to keep a tab on these kinds of practices, otherwise there might be a big surge in false advertising. We must have an iron fist and stop this.
Businesses that have a lot of pep, see a lot profits. But companies export their ideas to others and spread the word. We all know that companies feel obligated to "keep up with the Jones", and that once one business starts cheating, others will follow the lead. This is because most businesses don't want other companies to get ahead in sales. If this happens, they will have lost. But we will not let these monsters (wink) win.
So here's our plan to get at the core of the problem. We think the deceptive cans of Sierra Mist "Free" should all be hung by wires and packed into a vault. Next, we will shoot the cans with M5 machine guns. Then we will reload the guns, change the batteries, and shoot the cans again. After that, we will crush, hit, kick and beat the shards. Then we will put whatever is left in an incinerator and light it on fire. We will take the remains and throw them to the fish in the sea. Then everything will be ok.
We don't want to give them a bad rep, but if the soda companies are booed, so be it. Businesses like PepsiCo do not have the right to do this. They are just tangoing with trouble. If we don't stop these companies, it will just be another trouble mountain. Do you want that to happen? Our plan is no hype. We need a boost in supporters and lots of aid for our full plan to work. Fans of FCN, please join our club and our relentless fight against false advertising.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Guys can't write greeting cards. Whether the occasion is Christmas, a birthday or simply a “thank you for the dried rutabaga, it really made my day,” we males are completely inept at developing any kind of decent note. Maybe it's the testosterone that destroys our cheesy receptors and makes us send schlocky cards we regret moments after dropping them into the mailbox. Or maybe its that we never put in the time to learn how to send a happy notice. Or perhaps the ability to write greeting cards is repelled by the "Y" chromosome. Whatever the reason, the end result is that we can't formulate a decent card.
To remedy this, and meet the demand of a huge male market, Hallmark created a pre-inscribed gift card that could, for a low price, fulfill the social obligation to express gratitude or wish someone well around a holiday. All the male need do is inscribe his name below the pre-written greeting.
The problem is that the solution was too effective. Soon the market was flooded with all the cheap and canned comedy any half-decent (female) writer could dream up. Whole store shelves were devoted to the sorting out of these greeting cards and males were once again faced with the gargantuan task of picking the right pre-fab greeting card. I have heard horror stories that some males spent several hours perusing different cards looking for something suitable for the female in their lives only to give up at the last minute and spend twenty bucks on flowers.
Yes, ouch. I feel the pain, brother.
The problem has persisted for long enough. Our gender can only take so much persecution. As a collection of desperate males, we here at the FCN Lab have found a solution to the “Multitude of Greetings” dilemma.
FCN labs will create one, easy to use card that lays out all the possible greetings in one very compact message. The cover will be a gender, racially and seasonally non-specific Smiley face (not unlike the one Wal-Mart has hijacked) and will have no text:
Doesn't that just instill happy thoughts in you? A smiley face is a universal relaxant; it's almost an opiate, in fact.
Inside, preferably on some kind of scented paper, the card will list a myriad of appropriate greetings (see below). All we males need do is cross off any inapplicable message:
There is even room for the adventurous male to strike out on his own and create a personalized message if he pleases. Keep in mind that the happiness of the receiver is not guaranteed when a personalized message is deployed.
You are over the hill!
You still look as young as you did when you were __ (write in age here)
You only get better with age.
Happy Birthday, little one.
It's hard to believe you're really __ (write in age here)
Other (Not Suggested): _______________________
Happy New Year!
Happy Valentine's Day!
Other (Not Suggested): ________________________
Wish you were here.
Get well soon.
I miss you.
Personalized Message (Not Suggested)
If there is significant demand, we may sell our idea to Hallmark where a group of females can craft the message choices.
Friday, March 09, 2007
If you haven’t read FCN’s account of the traumatizing experience I had with a young woman at the campus canteen a couple quarters of a moon ago, please take the time to read it because it is an important backdrop for today’s post.
No, I am serious about this. You can always push your browser’s back button or, if you are using Opera, Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer 7, create a new tab and view the page concurrently with this one. Simply push your mouse’s middle button or click normally while holding the ctrl button (Option on a Mac). Or you can right click the above link and press “Open in New Window.” Whatever your style is, get it done now because I won’t keep typing until you are caught up on my love life.
OK. Now that you are up to speed, I can tell you what happened yesterday morning. I had just finished a heady discussion of the properties of water in my science class (why do these things always follow science?) and was enjoying the light breeze in my face as I walked across the street to do a little lunch hour purchasing (note the difference between shopping and purchasing).
As I walked, minding my innocence, on a concrete sidewalk, I passed a couple of Hispanic girls, who looked completely self absorbed. As is my custom when I pass anyone, but especially young women, I smiled and nodded my head.
Instead of walking on, engrossed in their Ipod or cellular phone conversation, as most people do, these young women stopped. One of the girls, who I later found out was named Samantha, asked “you’re the guy who had his picture taken on the cell phone, right?”
So now the whole world knew about Lindsey’s pink mobile? Maybe the FCN readership is bigger than I imagined.
Did this mean my photo was circulating around? Was it the desktop image of every perverted female in town? Did the picture turn out ok? Did the crumbs on my teeth show through?
“Yes, a young woman took my picture a week or so ago. I believe her name was Lindsey,” I smiled, but couldn’t hold the curiosity out of my features.
The girls giggled and looked at one another with an expression I will never understand. “Well, our friend wants your phone number.”
Here we go again. First my picture, then my number. Those are both online, you know. Why doesn't this girl come out of the woodwork and meet me personally? Does the girl really exist or is this a vast conspiracy perpetuated by the campus females to trip me up?
Why would a collection of girls exert any effort to trip me up?
Alas, beauty is stronger then the intellect and I succumbed, entering my digits into Samantha’s mobile for, I was told, later transmission to the mystery crush.
In order to unravel as much of the mystery as possible, I decided to keep asking questions. “So,” I asked, “what’s the name of this girl, the one who has the crush on me?” Tact was never my strong point.
“Luce,” came the answer. At least I think it’s spelled that way. It could have been “Loose.”
“Okay,” I continued my inquiry, “where do you guys hang out? Maybe I could swing a visit and say hi sometime.” Maybe.
“Oh, Luce doesn’t go to school here anymore. She’s working…” Samantha’s voice trailed off, leaving an awkward silence.
To this point, I’d forgotten to stop smiling and my face was beginning to feel tight; I relaxed my features.
And so the conversation with Samantha and her unnamed friend concluded. We exchanged inconsequential pleasantries and parted ways leaving me with only a little more data about the girl with the mystery crush. I’d given out my phone number – a bargaining chip, my brother had informed me, in the relationship scene – and was still perplexed about the entire situation.
Questions, old and new, plagued the rest of my purchase-driven excursion. Was this some kind of conspiracy to get Luce and me to go out? Did Luce really exist or is there a band of young women desperate for my attention? How could a girl who doesn’t go to school know me well enough to establish a crush? Why was the text on Samantha’s cellular set to Spanish? And, perhaps most haunting, when will the crazy collegiate women attack me again?
Thursday, March 08, 2007
We were recently asked to come up with a position on torture. Well, here it is.
Please understand that this position was not easily come by.Yesterday, all three FCN contributors wandered out into a deep forest. We sat down and debated the issue until we came up with a solution that everyone found equitable. By this, I mean we sat on old tree stumps pressing our chins into our knuckles with serious expressions and dreaming about girls.
The United Nations Convention Against Torture And Other Cruel, Inhuman Or Degrading Treatment Or Punishment (TUNCATAOCIODTOP - pronounced "Toonkata Ochitop") defines torture as: "Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity."
This definition is an oversimplification.
Please understand that for someone to simply ask: "Do you support torture?" is totally unjust and simplistic. We might support torture in some cases but not in others, or only on certain people, under certain requirements and conditions. So, we cannot simply say we support torture or don't. It's a bit more nuanced. Here is our official position:
Interrogational torture using normal or comparably normal means is justified in any circumstance in which the information to which the tortured party is exclusively or uniquely privy to is significant to the torturing party, and when the aforementioned information cannot be obtained through less violent means (barring extraordinary or comparably extraordinary measures, as well as those with an unreasonably high risk or failure, cost, or other detrimental consequences), and when the unavailability of such information would place the torturing party proper in significant danger or risk, and when there is reasonable certainty that the tortured party is privy to such information, and only if this information is deemed to justify such action by a responsible adult in a position or authority and/or responsibility and who is in complete or reasonable control of his or her mental and ethical faculties and who explicitly and knowingly authorizes the act while operating in an official capacity that gives him or her jurisdiction over the action and/or execution of the torture, and then only if such torture is motivated exclusively by the information after which the torturing party proper is seeking and never engages in means which could not be deemed normal or comparably normal unless one or more of the following two conditions is fulfilled: first, if the torture is consentual, second, if the authorizing party deems that obtaining the information by a certain critical time is both unlikely to happen if normal or comparably normal means are used, and that this failure would place the torturing party proper in such grave danger that it would be unjust not to take More drastic measures, in which case extraordinary or comparably extraordinary means, as well as those with a high risk of failure,cost, or other detrimental consequences may be taken with little or no regard to the current and future well-being of the tortured party or the ethical framework of the torturing party singular, provided the detrimental consquences if any do not outweigh the benefits to the torturing party proper, considering both the immediate short-term effects of the act and the precedent set by it, and then only if the torturing party proper is considered to have a moral gravity equal to or greater than the tortured party and what/who is represented by the tortured party.
In contrast, torture for obtaining confessions/punishing/discriminating/intimidating people is always wrong.
So, while we stand in near-direct opposition of the position taken by dear old Toonkata Ochitop, we do think this position is worthy of public debate. Yesterday, we called their (Toonkata Ochitop's) offices and tried to contact a spokesman for an interview. This morning we got a post-it note in the mail filled with disturbing, florid, and graphic threats.
Oh well. Though this position paper is unlikely to be widely read or make much of a positive impact in the world, we did learn a few things from the process of writing it. For instance: It's amazing the things you can cook up on old tree stumps (I mean that metaphorically).
Posted at 5:24 PM
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
It is always painful, even a tad Socratic, when a decent man stands up against the mob and tries to demonstrate his innocence. That's what Scooter Libby, a formerly well respected issues advocate and Patron Saint of Politics who now does political dog duty, has done over the last few months as he arduously fought to prove his innocence to a blood-hungry, finger-pointing, culpability-seeking jury.
Yesterday, Scooter lost his battle and was convicted of four out of five felony counts. Ignored by the jury were this man's stellar record on Capital Hill, exceptional history as a career lawyer and immaculate facial features whose innocence only a blind man could doubt.
Maybe some of the jury members were blind.
Based solely on the evidence of a newspaper columnist, the testimony of his back-stabbing colleagues and a US Ambassador, a “recorded” telephone conversation and some circumstantial data, an otherwise innocent man has been convicted of obstruction of justice, perjury and making false statements.
(The distinction between “perjury” and “making false statements” is, of course, a very important one.)
It’s not just that Scooter has been convicted of some crimes; he has been emasculated and castrated, yes castrated, to the bone by those he once thought were his friends. The high ranking people who used to have offices next to his are pretending Scooter never existed that his contribution to this nation never happened. Scooter has been vaporized. His name has been dragged, like Messala, through the mud behind a chariot. He has been trampled underfoot like so many lions and cobras and left behind to rot. His political math turned negative and his “friends” gave him the boot.
The eminently qualified news media inform us that Scooter has the dubious honor of being the highest ranking government official to be convicted of a felony since the Iran-Contra days, which were, if you are a teenager, a long time ago. And the scape-goats back then weren’t as pretty as Scooter. Pity.
After some appeals and related rigmarole, most of which could bore Justice Ginsburg to tears, Scooter will scoot (get it?) down to the Big House and serve out the penalty for his “crimes.”
When he is released, some two or three years from now, he will write a book that purportedly accepts the blame for his actions but actually subtly points some fingers. The book will become a New York Times bestseller and Scooter will use the money to campaign against prison violence. Like Bill Clinton before him, Scooter will no longer have any political significance.
Scooter may feel some amount of self-centered commiseration at the predicament in which his actions have left him hanging. But he shouldn’t feel too bad about his plight: in the old days, a politically unpopular or inconvenient person was taken into the woods and shot (we still haven’t found Jimmy Hoffa’s remains).
Today we have a very organized and civil method of disposing of our unpopular personas. Its supporters call it Justice; it’s antagonists, passing the buck. This time round Scooter was left holding the cheese and he’ll be the one taking the flak and fulfilling the obligations of this modern Justice. But by the time he has served his sentence, Scooter may be wishing for the old days.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
I run track. That’s a simple way of saying I submit my body and soul to inhuman torture at the hands of a known narcissist for two and a half hours on a daily basis. It’s a summary of years spent sprinting round and round a quarter mile of rubberized asphalt trying to beat the clock and the poor souls who are cursed to join me.
But it’s also an endorphin induced activity that pushes back the barriers of reality and lends me a meta-nirvana on a daily basis. It’s Eric Liddle, Roger Bannister and Michael Johnson feeling “His” pleasure and slicing the wind on “our” own two feet.But enough of my fecund teenybopper Hemmingway imitations.
My elevated view of track was surviving well until the glamor and excitement were rubbed off during yesterday's practice, when the macabre reality of our activity set in with the force of Marv’s fist.
In case you forgot, the weather was terrible, rainy, windy and altogether obnoxious, but our former Navy Seal head coach who claims to once have done push-ups on the ocean floor was undeterred by the meteorology.
After stretching (drenched, shivering and just starting to become sour), coach measured a distance of half a football field, 50 meters, and instructed us, his ignorant but loyal minions, to lunge the distance ten times while carrying a 35 pound weight on our shoulders.
For those of you blissfully unaware of the “lunge,” it simply a large step that pushes the knee almost to the ground before repeating the stride.
Using Al Gore’s internet, I was able to locate the following picture of a lunge which might serve to illustrate the activity:
The only difference between the young woman above and what we were doing is that we left our ballet tutus and exotic headpieces in the locker room.
By the first lap through the lunge pattern, my legs were shaking like an electronic cake batter mixer. One of the coaches, a young, sympathetic man who never served in the military, would shout encouraging slogans at us as we gyrated through the movement.
“Go! Yeah! Keep it up! Don’t stop now! Yeah! Who's the man here?” I thought I was on hands and knees doing a Dead Man’s Crawl in Facing the Giants. Maybe I was...
By the time the last step was completed, my entire body was moving involuntarily. I collapsed on the track and watched as my legs kicked to and fro periodically, seemingly without design. It would have been funny if it hadn't been so painful.
I tried to stand up, but fell hard and the texture of the track left an imprint on my nose.
Judging from the sighs and groans from my team mates, the practice ought to have been over at that moment. We could hardly crawl, much less run, and any more practice, it seemed to us, would bear little fruit toward the goal of running fast.
Our coach had a different idea. “All right! I want an 'easy' mile at 90 second lap pace. Let’s go, go, go,” he said to a chorus of groans.
90 second lap pace is a six minute mile, a feat accomplished with relative ease by us collegiate runners, but, in our current state of physical delinquency, it seemed out of the question. A mile is, by anyone's standard, a long way to go unaided by modern transit equipment. But with the rain and our terribly rended muscles, it seemed like forever.
But we moved, slowly at first and then faster, putting one foot in front of sore foot, somehow going, as a team, as we had been instructed.
As we ran, the coach shouted racing epithets at us: “You guys are running as if you just got off a horse!” “You guys are running like shot putters.” “You guys are running like Nancy Pelosi!”
We ended up going an additional three miles; each step, a nail in our collective rears which still screamed from our lunges. When we were finished, the workout was over and we left the coach and his narcissism behind for another twenty one and half hours.
The story would have been painful enough if it ended here, but there’s more. I got up this morning and tried to lift my leg, only to discover that it wouldn’t go up. It barely budged with the effort. Like so many French employees, my muscles were on strike, refusing to obey even a normal command. I had to shuffle through my morning routine (shower, shave and shine, although I think I might have skipped the shower since the step was so high) and drove to school pushing the gas and brake pedals with my hands.
Practice today was carnage. Grown men were crying like pampered babies. Conditioned athletes, some of whom are capable of running competitive times at the state level, walked on to the track rubbing their hindquarters as a child might after a spanking.
We were disabled. A bunch of invalid runners without spirit, drive or knee lift. If the college had a wheelchair service for its athletes, we would undoubtedly be rolling instead of limping. We had lost our eudaimonia and couldn't get it back until the soreness left. Worse, we were ashamed of ourselves for being unable to handle a tough workout and hid our shame with violent complaints and requests for sympathy.
On the plus side, we won't be lunging again until next week; although that's a day I think I might skip...