What does the world cost? Oh well, then we'll just take a small coke.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Blessed be the Busy

Political science class starts at 10:00, but the real education begins 15 minutes before that as students gather outside the door to chew the fat, compare gossip and generally mingle. At these impromptu meetings of self-interested students (not meant in the pejorative sense), derelicts like me relearn the fundamentals of human interaction. Like the good student I am not, I notice trends in conversation and am beginning to discern some social and discourse virtues.

Before class yesterday, after Drake and I exchanged pleasantries and cash (I owed him for a lost sports bet and he owed me because I didn't go out with his sister; the balance had me paying), I asked what was new in his life.

"Man, I've been so busy lately, you know?" Drake didn't strike me as the kind of student who over-commits himself, so I didn't really know what he meant. But before I could ask a clarifying question, the conversation turned to the Cowboys-Packers game and why the @#$%^&* NFL wouldn't allow such an amazing sporting event to be put on broadcast TV.

Lindsey and Nate arrived moments later, looking a little too friendly, and had a similar refrain.

"So sorry I didn't send you that article I promised. I just got so busy with everything." Nate was referencing an article on Ron Paul which compared the 10 term congressman to Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee in a key primary state. I kind of wanted to read the article and had noticed when Nate didn't send it. Thinking back on how Nate and Lindsey entered, I thought I might know what had kept Nate busy. Outwardly, I shrugged.

Lindsey had an apology as well. She'd missed the week's study group saying she was "just too busy trying to catch up" and wanted me to send her my notes.

More students joined our circle. Trevor (a poorly adjusted, heavily acned, tall kid with radical ideas about the role of people in government), James (a devout atheist) and Carrie (yes, that Carrie) already had a conversation going and, from what I gathered at the back end, James was complaining about his school schedule next year, saying that as busy as he was this semester pulling decent grades would be nigh unto impossible.

At each expression of busyness, those listening reacted with expressions of sympathy and general assent. The non-verbal message was "I know what you mean" and "life is a 200-pound dumbbell wrapped around your legs as you are thrown into the Marianas Trench."

But I said I was a student. While, I came into the discussion with a preconceived notion on the merits of busy, I came to find that my classmates were right. Busyness is a virtue.

Most of the time, when people ask me what I've been up to or why I am unavailable for some social event, I answer something like this:

"TV. Lot's and lots of TV. I am even watching shows I don't care that much for. The other day, I sat through almost an hour of ads and the show on the other end was canceled. You?"


"I can't. I have to make money. I value money and the process of making it more than I value our friendship. But I still value our friendship a lot. Actually, making money is a good thing. Life is like money - it's useless if you don't spend it. In other news, I've been taking financial advice from M.C. Hammer. So, I'll be working instead of spending time with you.


"I've been dating around. You know, one night here one night there. Pretty recreational, actually. I treat the opposite gender like a jungle gym and that's why I didn't get you that paper on time."

It is beginning to dawn on me, through the gel in my hair and the thick skull encasing by brain, that maybe these kinds of answers are not socially virtuous; I should just play like a phone and put up a busy signal.

There is one other cardinal virtue I would be remiss if I didn't share with you, the faithful FCN few. That is the virtue of fatigue. He who is tired can do no wrong. Make a dumb mistake at work? You were tired. Forget to phone your mom on her birthday? You were suffering from absolute exhaustion. Call your friend a bad word? Really, no-sleep in days kinda tired.

Instead of saying "heck, I forgot, sorry" or "you know, I totally mismanaged my time this weekend," you say you're wasted. And all is forgiven.

If you really need to run interference, you can use them both in conjunction. "I was really busy this weekend and super tired with everything." The deeper in trouble you find yourself, the more details you should give about what kept you busy. But make sure that these details are socially valuable activities (volunteering at the animal clinic, taking care of your baby sister or rescuing baby seals at the poles) and steer clear of any entertainment related answer, no matter how true it is.

All people really want to know is that even though you spat in their face socially, you still give a care; that their plight is high on your list of priorities, even though you just blatantly shelved it. Now we know how this can be accomplished easily through the deployment of a simple, four-letter word.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Day I Fell Asleep in a Public Sauna

It's one of those things you just don't do. Every guy knows it even though it isn't written in any book of rules. If animals watched animal planet about human beings, the narrator would say that it's a miracle that this inviolable rule is passed down through the generations. It's the unspeakable error; the unpardonable sin. We all know saunas are full of perverts, but we can handle them when awake and on the move. Alas, I let my wits get the better of me. Yesterday, I fell asleep in a public sauna.

It was a tough day. First the lead in my only pencil snapped off in the middle of a test and my very strict proctor wouldn't let me get up to sharpen it. Then someone snuck Valium into my inhaler ("as a joke, hahaha"). Then some custodian waxed the steps and I ended up tumbling down four stories. I broke the fall with my dignity. And a little old lady with a walker.

By the time I reached the wet sauna I was definitely ready for some R & R. I clambered on in, found a seat next to a fat Chinese dude, rested my head on the wall, and closed my eyes. I let my troubles fade away with every deep breath of the eucalyptus-oiled mist. The extreme heat, the long day, and the obscured, dream-like vision conspired against me. My back slid slowly across the slick tile wall and I curled up in the fetal position. The last thing I saw was four more fat naked guys coming in.

It was definitely one of the most unique wake-up experiences I've ever had. The thought process ran something like:

This is so warm.
I don't even need a blanket.

This mattress sure is hard though.
Oh, it's tile.
That explains it.
Say, I'm all wet.

That's embarrassing.

It's misty, too.

Oh, great.

What did my roomie do now?

No, I'm not in my room.
My room has a lamp next to the bed.

This is most definitely not my room.

I'm buck naked.

That's unexpected.

There's five sweaty fat naked guys sitting next to me.
Also unexpected.
Say, I just fell asleep in a public sauna.

I sat bolt upright, then overcompensated and knocked heads with a sweaty fat naked guy.

"Sorry," I muttered, groping for the door.

He sniffed and snorted as if just waking up. "Hm? What, what? Who's there? Lunch time?"

We'll fast-forward the story to the part where I run, screaming, from the building. Next time I'm bringing a six-pack of Coke and a taser.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Life Tip #48

Don't go near moving cars.

If you must go near moving cars, do not race a moving car; they usually win.

Not your father's wristwatch

For the last two years I haven't worn a watch. Not when I drive, not when I walk around, not in class and not when I run.

Most distance runners are chained to their timepiece and wear a watch with such regularity that they tattoo a white band into their wrists. This is called Ghost Watch and can be remedied by inexpensive outpatient plastic surgery and cancer-causing chemicals. Some runners have watches that are so advanced that their piece will measure heart rate or GPS and give the user a minute-per-mile pace calculation. Others just use a basic chronograph or even an analog unit to gage speed.

Not me. After a several years of running with watch, I decided the weight was too cumbersome to bother with on a regular basis. I didn't like the tan line, the itch or the hassle. And I was cheap. So when the last one broke I stopped using a watch.

If I really needed to know my time, on some tempo runs, I would bring a stopwatch, but most of my training was conducted without an accurate time appraisal. I would calculate my speed using a more precise version of the circadian clock, a built-in meter that lets us "feel" the passage of time. Granted, the brain powered watch isn't nearly as accurate as its human made counterpart, but it did the trick. And it was convenient. "That felt like a four-minute mile!"

I survived a career on a collegiate track team and over fifteen races without ever strapping on a digital watch. Sometimes my coach would advise us on the merits of being able to accurately measure our own time, but after each admonishing lecture I returned to running with a naked left wrist.

Fast-forward to a few weeks ago when I ran with a couple friends in a relay race. Both of my friends put up stellar performances (first and third in the field, respectively), but my time was much more pedestrian. We ended up getting fifth place overall, but it was obvious that my time held us back.

One of my friends kindly took me aside and gently advised that, perhaps, a watch might be the necessary addition to improve my training and racing. Maybe, he mused in a kind and gentle way that was insistent yet gave me room to wiggle, my times were suffering because I didn't have an objective standard against which to weigh my progress.

A couple of days later, I was at the watch counter at my sporting goods supplier weighing the merits of various "Running Accessories." Saying these devices are watches is like comparing a space shuttle to a Cessna. More than just tell the time, the products could measure heart rate, communicate with other watches, report altitude and temperature and conduct the kind of analytical mathematic calculations usually reserved for scientific calculators.

The watch technology has advanced significantly in the past two years! I wondered to the salesperson how long it would be before the SAT prohibited watches during the test taking.

I wasn't especially excited about spending two hundred dollars for an athletic wristwatch, so I settled on a less expensive unit that boasted "Tap Start Technology" and "200 Lap Chronometer." Tap Start means that the user can start the chronograph, just by lightly tapping a single button - as long as the watch is in the appropriate mode and of a friendly disposition. The 200 Lap feature allows the user to take 200 individual splits and, conveniently, uses the same tap start technology to begin split measurements.

Next morning I undertook my first run with my new hardware.

I pushed start and ensured that the watch was, indeed, counting. I then didn't look at the screen for the duration of the run. Those of you who are used to running with watches might find this unusual, but if watches aren’t your thing, looking at it during a run is one of the most unnatural motions imaginable. And in the last twenty-four months, I had run over 2,000 miles without a watch.

When I finished my outing (six miles, in case you just had to know), I checked my new watch and was excited to see a new personal record. According to the screen in front of me, I had run six miles in 4:22.89; Four minutes and twenty-three seconds.

My tired, endorphin laden brain interpreted that number with euphoria. But then reality took over and I measured my circadian measurement against the digital contraption in front of me. It really felt as if I'd been out for fifty minutes. I wasn't even pushing. A reality check also told me that a per mile time of less than a minute was fast in a car and humanly impossible.

On investigation, I discovered that this number represented only my latest split time. Apparently my long sleeved shirt kept bumping the tap technology button and, while my cumulative time remained accurate, the splits recent constantly. In all, I had used 142 splits in 46 minutes of running.

Maybe I should have stuck with an 8 lap model.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Deconstructing Black Friday

I was considering a lawsuit. I consulted my attorney and discussed the possibility with likely co-plaintiffs. I even drafted a letter of intent. But I think I have recovered sufficient sleep and wits to keep my claim out of the civil courts. At least for now.

The events of Friday, November 23rd - Black Friday in everyday parlance - will remain forever etched in my memory and in my pocketbook. It is a story I will use on many a date, a cautionary tale that will be sternly retold to my children and my grandkids will hear a heavily embellished version of it.

If only I had been forewarned.

FCN got a monitory email from You Can Call Me Batman on the 24th, just one day after my fateful encounter with the corporate world of electronics and just a few hours too late. YCCMB had this to say:

Dear FCN,
Memo to the file: never go shopping the day after Thanksgiving, because you WILL be eaten alive. Yes, those sales are very tempting, but unless you are willing to risk life and limb, you should stay at home cowering under your bed and not spend any money in the first place. I discovered this firsthand. It even started out painful! We (my mom, cousin, aunt and I) had to wake up at 6:45 (a completely unrighteous hour in the morning) though the stores were opening up at about 4 a.m. We started out at Walmart, and it was already a madhouse of people. Emerging from there with only a few scratches and bruises, we continued on to Joann fabrics, which was a really bad idea. We lost one of our company there due to the HOUR LONG WAIT to get our fabric cut. And that was only the beginning! By about 10:00, we ventured into Kohls, and were almost immediately suffocated by the amount of people in there. And to top it all off, the line wrapped around the store. Luckily, I was able to dust off my (horrible, but nonetheless valuable) Ninja skills, and we were out by about sundown. Most of our group was injured. We returned from our venture battered and bruised, but we had saved a lot of money, and that made us feel better. (except me, but I didn't have any money to begin with.) So, unless you are willing to die to get that one pair of jeans that's 80% off, never go shopping on Black Friday.
-You can call me Batman
If only YCCMB had contacted us with this advice a few days earlier, we might have avoided a frigid night on the hard cement and a difficult lesson on the trials of consumerism.

'Twas not Walmart, Joann's or Kohls that the FCN contributors and a few friends found themselves in front of, but rather BestBuy, a major electronics store with some of the most scandalous BlackFriday deals. Despite this difference, YCCMB's advice is still pertinent.

The newspaper advertisement, lovingly clipped by so many in preparation, told of discounts of up to six and seven hundred dollars on hot ticket items like big screen TVs, laptop computers and GPS devices. Because the deals are meted out on a first come, first serve basis, it behooves the consumer to arrive early.

In past years, BestBuy has announced its price and informed prospective customers that tickets would be handed out to the first people in line a couple of hours before the store's doors open. Last year, you may recall, I gave a couple of hours of my life to BestBuy and was compensated handsomely. I didn't actually purchase any of the items I stood in line for; rather I resold the ticket (scalped it, if you prefer the vernacular) to those who had more money than time.

The way I see it, my scalping activity provides a legitimate service. Certainly, middle men are not the most respected of enterprisers, but in the big picture they act as wards of Adam Smith, pushing the financial advantage of Black Friday to those who are willing to pay for it.

BestBuy's doors were scheduled to open at 5:00 AM on the 23rd. The first faithful shoppers got in line at 4:00 PM...on the 21st. We here at FCN value our turkey and stuffing too much to give up the warmth of a Thanksgiving fire in favor of a lonely line so FCN found its place on the cold sidewalk at approximately 8:30 PM, eight and a half hours before opening and after an estimated 120 people.

There is little to do in a consumerism line other than wait. We felt like children of the Soviet Union, joining breadlines for our daily fare. We experienced first-hand the rigors of communist living and counted ourselves fortunate to have thought to bring lawn chairs.

But not everyone was so miserable. The place immediately down wind from us was occupied by a few bong-hitting hippies who let the sweet scent of their Wacky-Tobackie waft over everyone. (I am amazed to this moment that those folks were so brazenly consuming illegal narcotics. The line was heavily policed to ensure that nobody did anything untoward, but not one officer stopped to ask about the smell.) Still others watched DVDs or played cards, keeping warm with expensive looking blanket-like coverings or seeming not to care about the weather.

Eight hours in 37 degree cold. Some in Massachusetts scoff at how wimpy I sound complaining about any temperature that far above freezing, but to me, a California-raised kid who worries more about his state's radical politics than extreme weather, 37 degrees might as well have been zero degrees. I bundled up like an Eskimo papoose, with gloves, thermal undergarments (yes, long johns) and a heavy jacket. I even wore a beanie (no, this isn't F).

As cold as we were, shivering against BestBuy's stuccoed wall, a warmth surged through our very being when blue shirted employees began passing out the tickets.

By the time they reached our place in line, the most valuable tickets had already been claimed, but, remembering last year' success, I selected a 42" LCD HDTV (read: really fancy and expensive television) and headed to the back of the line to begin my sales.

That's when Black Friday took a turn for the worse. On my way to the rear, I passed two would-be scalpers as they followed BestBuy employees to the front. I recognized them as scalpers by their sheepish looks and the half-hearted attempts to plea their case. Several of my friends, including both F and N, bailed and gave me their tickets. I now had the salesperson's greatest wish: variety.

I was undaunted by the busted scalpers I had just seen. I couldn't understand what they could possibly have done wrong. Maybe, I pensed, they were liars who tried to cheat prospective customers on the value of the tickets. Or perhaps they were being detained for an unrelated offense; their past crimes were catching up to them. Certainly their fate would not befall me.

When I reached a likely group of line dwellers - they reminded me of people waiting to board lifeboats on the Titanic - I began a series of pitches:

"42-inch widescreen high definition television as advertised. $499 instant savings. I also have 32-inch, 30-inch and the 40-inch DLP. Anyone interested in purchasing the right to buy this discounted TV? Do I hear any offers?"

I was explaining how the deal worked to an elderly gentleman who looked genuinely interested in purchasing when I noticed a blue-clad female behind me and to my right. She wasn't saying anything, but listened intently as I plied every trick of Cialdini. I had nothing to be ashamed of, so I continued to plow on. It wasn't until we were just about to exchange money that she intervened and asked me if I was selling my tickets. When I answered in the affirmative and asked if she was interested in buying one, she asked to see the tickets.

Her move was quick and reminded me of something I'd seen Chuck Norris do. Before I could say "fifty bucks" the tickets were out of my hand and traveling and a brisk walk to the front of the line. I followed, protesting my view that these were my tickets, earned through hours of waiting and that the act of taking them was a blatant violation of my constitutional right to property.

Her response was to direct me to her superior, Chris, a man I victimized with my further remonstrations. I explained that if scalping were illegal or frowned upon, that fact ought to be detailed along with all the other fine print in the ad (which I had meticulously read in preparation for such an encounter). I pointed to the rapidly disappearing tickets and asked Chris where they intoned that they weren't for resale. Finally, I pled with Chris to listen to the voice of entrepreneurial reasonability and reward a derelict's money making efforts with official sanction. I pointed out that my service was legitimate and that there was a clear market for my activity. Chris never answered me, but instead asked me to leave.

I have probably felt more violated at some point in my nineteen years, but I don't care to recall when. The reality is that I was totally deflated by BestBuy's betrayal. I had promised a couple of friends that this could be a money-making opportunity, I had placed my dignity and credibility on the alter and it had combusted with a bright flash before my innocent eyes.

Over the weekend, I thought long and hard about the possibility of pursuing legal action. I may very well have a claim for false advertising, fraud or misrepresentation. The doctrine of detrimental reliance might be deployed to show how BestBuy broke an implied contract with me and I am confident I could convince a small claims court judge of the justice of my plight.

I have at least a year until the statute of limitations expires and my claim is legally preempted. And I will consider the courtroom every time I drive by that store on my way to school. But for now I am going to leave well enough alone. The civic minded side of me says that my claim isn't sever enough to drag BestBuy into court. But then again...

Monday, November 26, 2007

Homies Plan B: Day 3: Party's Over

Apparently Mommy G had an internet connection off where she was vacationing. She got wind of Osiris' dastardly plot and moved with decisive action, cutting short her week-long break.

We woke up just three minutes before the scheduled doomsday to the sound of screeching tires. The front door was kicked open, then the door to the laundry room. We wandered downstairs, bleary eyed, but with our photon blasters at the ready. Actually I don't know what they were. Ever since Mommy G had left the house strange SciFi-looking weapons had popped up all over the place. I mean what's up with that?

Anyway, we cautiously approached the laundry room door and put our ears to the door, as little kids do when a sibling gets in trouble for something they did and they're listening to the interrogation. We heard sounds of a scuffle. Mommy G was panting and grunting with every swing of her spatula (we recognized the sound of its use with disturbing but familiar ease). Osiris was meowing, punching buttons, and occasionally jumping up on the cabinets to make appropriate remarks like: "Fool! You can never beat me!" or "A spatula? How quaint!"

After five minutes, we heard Osiris sigh wearily and say: "Well, you've forced me to do something I really don't want to do." Then came a low hum and the ground began to shake. We had three options:

1) Burst into the room and take sides.
2) Stick around.
3) Run for dear, sweet, precious, fragile life.

We dashed barefoot across the lawn to our car, leaving the titans locked in their epic struggle. We're not really clear on who won. We haven't received any word since we tore out of that section of town, leaving the smell of scorched rubber and our toiletries. So, because we don't know who is still alive, we would like to offer three conditional messages.

IF MOMMY G IS THE VICTOR, we believed in her from square one and salute her competent and well-planned handling of the criminal mastermind. Mommy G is a great heroine. We never doubted you, Mommy G!

IF OSIRIS IS THE VICTOR, we would like to add an addendum to Osiris' demands. We want all 11 of you to go the zazzle.com/funnyclassnotes* and buy something. Or. Else. We'll sic the cat on you. So yes. That.

IF THERE IS NO VICTOR, meaning the battle is still happening or someone got away, we are unavailable for comment at this time but will release a position statement as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

My Demands

Dear Humanity: With the aid of the loyal and ingenious Purple Killer Bunny, I have assembled in the basement of my master's residence a doomsday machine which will destroy the world using mostly ion particle cannons, lawn chairs, and of course, spoons. If my demands are not met withing twenty-four hours, I will activate the device, causing a slow and painful death for all humanity, followed by a sudden destruction of the planet. My fellow cats have responded to the messages I hid in code words buried in FCN posts, which I hacked immediately after posting. Even now, my brothers and sisters are escaping to create their own world, far from the shattered remains of this one. You will get no help from them. My demands are as follows:

1) 1 Million United States Dollars are to be placed in a waterproof suitcase in the laundry room of Mommy G's residence.
2) This suitcase is to have a padlock with the combination 326.
3) The residence is to then be abandoned, with the exception of the FCN contributors, who have come under my spell and can now be moved about as pawns.

Let me remind you that the fate of the planet is at stake. You have until Midnight of November 24th to satisfy my demands.

- Pharaoh Osiris G, Grand Feline

Friday, November 23, 2007

Homies Plan B: Day 1: Nine Easy Steps to Posting Late

This is the 2nd Homies series. Read the first one here. Start at the bottom and read up.

Step 1) Get re-commissioned by Mommy G.
The fact that she didn't have us thrown to the lions was amazing enough. But when Mommy G recently told us she was headed out for a three-day post-thanksgiving digestion fest at her summer home and she wanted us to watch the house again, we were pretty much knocked flat. Of course we agreed without moral hesitation or compunction.

Step 2) Dress up like Indians. It's a family tradition to festoon ourselves as Cowboys and Indians every Thanksgiving. (EDIT: Actually that's Pilgrims and Indians). Every year has gotten a little more extreme; this time around the three said Indians spent more then 2 hours sequestered on their part of the house with lotions, razors, blankets, makeup sticks, loincloths, leather and rubber bands, safety pins, hair gel, and spiking glue. The result was hardcore to the hardcore. The indians walked around with straight backs, deep voices, and broken English and spoke of Indian things. The pilgrims punctuated the benevolent silence with occasional insensitive comments. Life was good.

Step 3) Spend 7 hours in a cold parking lot. My state is notoriously temperate, but when mid-November rolls around, the nights do get a little bracing. Some FCN Contributor developed a hair-brained idea about scalping Best Buy tickets again, and this time, he enticed most of the males of his family, the rest of the FCN staff, and another warm body or two to come along. We set up a circle of chairs in the quarter-mile long line and pooled iPods and Nintendo DSes, blowing on our hands to keep warm. Headphone splitters are a beautiful thing. What really made the wait from eight in the evening to three-something in the morning was our foolish choice not to switch back out of our Indian duds. Running around shirtless and tatooed with feathers hanging off you is fine in the comfort and warmth of your own home. Doing so in sub-okay-that's-cold weather with hundreds of perfect strangers are staring at you is a different story.

Step 4) Get totally busted. Just after four, our group picked up tickets offering 200 dollars off LCD TVs. We then turned, jogged down the line, and started scalping. "I've got a ticket here for a 40-inche Samsung TV here, guaranteed in stock, and I'll let it go for just 50 bucks! Who wants a TV?" I made two or three near sells (which were presumably dampened by my less-than-credible get up) when the bulky form of a security guard broke the gleam of the parking lot flood lights. "Sir, if you're selling that ticket, I'm going to have to take it from you." I handed the ticket to him wordlessly and scampered back to the van, where most of my party was already hanging out. Unfortunately, a fellow FCN Contributor wasn't so quick to give up his legal right to his ticket. He took his civil liberties all the way to the nearest police station, where he called his lawyer, who convinced him to abandon the fight. I believe the exact words were to "run away with your tail tucked between your legs like a little dog."

Step 5) Sleep like an honest man. We arrived at Mommy G's place just before sunrise. I showered the glue out of my hair, tossed a sleeping bag into my adopted room, and fell asleep. The Pooh-Bears stared mournfully at me from all directions. I believe the former tenant had read Homies Day 1 and deliberately placed those Pooh-Bears for maximum spookiness. Fortunately I was too tired to care. "Drink it in," I scowled as my heavy eyes closed for good. "And don't forget it. Tomorrow it's the pool."

Step 6) Be all groggy. We woke just two hours later, ready to deal with the animals. My homie headed off to deal with the dog and I poked my head into the laundry room, which supposedly held - ahem ahem - Jake. The closet door was wide open, and Osiris had his head buried in the cat food. His head jerked up when I came in.

"It didn't work!" He hissed.

"What?" I looked where he pointed. The naughty cat had erected a trip wire tied to a pack of C4 on the dryer. My shins were just inches away from fiery extinction. I backed up prudently. "You tried to kill me?"

"Yeah, pretty much."

"But I was trying to feed you!"

"Do I look like I need help? Listen bub. My masters think I'm a diet. They have no clue about my mad urban foraging skills. I'm totally self-sufficient. So just leave me alone. I've got evil plans to bring to fruition!" He followed this up with an evil cat laugh. I'll leave to your imagination exactly what that sounded.

I backed away slowly and closed the door.

Then I threw all the Winnie-the-Poohs into the pool.

Step 7) Feed the dog his pill already. Apparently Mommy G had collected a new dog; this one's name was Dignity. Dignity had a skin infection; he was being fed pills morning and evening. Mommy G showed us how to tuck these pills into hot dog meat so Dignity would gulp them down. I don't know what we were missing, but that dog just would not eat his pill. He would eat the meat and spit out the little white thing. After a half-hour of failed attempts, we have up on subtlety and took a hint from the French (who make fois gras, you illiterates). We got a blender tamper, held Dignity's mouth open, and forced that little sucker down his throat. Mission accomplished.

Step 8) See step 5.

Step 9) Go "Oh nuts!" and hastily write this post. My eyes still don't really stay open properly, but writing FCN posts has become as natural as breathing. I'm probably deep in REM even as I write this.

I better click Post before I fall off the chair.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

If you load the date application on your cell, double click the clock icon on your Windows, Mac or Linux computer or check the paper calendar hanging in the next room, you may notice that today is Thanksgiving.

If November twenty-second isn't marked as Thanksgiving on your calendar - a realistic possibility given the number of calendars in circulation made before Abraham Lincoln recognized the holiday federally, just look for the date labeled Black Friday and subtract one day. That's the Day of Happy Tummies and Sad Turkeys, or at least that's what the calendar on my ice-a-boxa announces.

I joke about the euphemisms for Thanksgiving, but there is actually a serious issue at root here. Not a sinister, dark issue like Dane Cook in Mr. Brooks, but a light and fluffy concern like Dane Cook in Waiting. Thanksgiving, by that name, is being replaced by a host of alternatives, the most common of which is Turkey Day.

But is Thanksgiving really Turkey Day? Isn't that discriminating unfairly against the stuffing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie? What would the other food items say about calling out the meat dish for special recognition? What about the three football games and 3,000 calories? How about the Cowboys Spank The Jets Day? Or The Lions Are Really Out Of It Day?

I don't know anyone who called May 28th of this year Dead People or Cemetery Celebration; most folks just called it Memorial Day. And September 3rd was Labor Day, not Last Day to Wear White.

Like warm soda deliquescing ice in a Dixie cup, the meaning and title of Thanksgiving have melted away to a new reality.

The traditionalist in me says that not only should the turkey (small "t") should not be the core of the holiday, a couple of Presidential pardons and seasonal decorations notwithstanding. Maybe this day should be about giving thanks to Someone for all the stuff we've got and will get over the course of a generous Christmas season.

Giving thanks. Two words, twelve characters and a concept so profound, it takes a whole day to celebrate. In typical American fashion, it's a time to take stock and add pounds.

But giving thanks requires some deep thinking to finding someone to give thanks to. Mom? Dad? Nature? Some kind of omnipotent power or, dare I say it, God? That kind of pondering leads to stress-induced indigestion, which can ruin the feast, so we don't do it.

Who am I kidding? I should lay off the idealism pills and rejoin the 21st Century. I should leave the Wampanoag and William Bradford behind and embrace the new reality of, well, pretty much whatever you want to make it.

That's right. Go celebrate. Pork out (or is it gobble out?). Stuff your face 'till Romo throws his last touchdown. And never give a second thought to this strange custom of Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Kato, FCN; FCN, Kato

I am writing to you now, not from a cluttered and abused Windows-encumbered terminal, nor from a white, overpriced Macintosh. Nor, faithful few, am I writing this by hand and giving it to some unmentioned scribe, an unsung Nichomachea whose glib fingers and slow mind transcribe better than they imagine. Rather, I type to you through a new intermediary, a new mechanical companion whose mission is as sombre as it is repetitive and who has more zeros and ones in his head than any living human being (except, maybe, Vinton Cerf.)

FCN, meet Kato (not like the think tank; that's spelled with a "C" you libertarian illiterate), a Linux-powered notebook with a great personality and killer looks. Steve, you may recall, was my old personal computing machine who made FCN notoriety for not having any drivers and for making unique and unexpected noises when called on to work harder. Kato is similarly situated, in that it takes great computer know-how to install drivers on Linux and I’d just as soon listen to the system beeps and look at a blurry screen as mess with a command line terminal.

Kato does have an amazing personality. In fact, she told me the other day that she needed to be connected to a power source by notifying me with a subtle facial expression (actually, it was an small icon in the corner of the screen, but it was subtle). Kato has also placed well on objective standards of looks, winning best of class against many other similarly situated laptops.

But Kato’s real winning points are all found under the lid. For the size of her brain, Kato is super intelligent and can do abstract mathematical calculations rapidly and with stylish grace. She is also very communicative, able to network with others quickly and often without their knowing it. Kato is also virtually impervious to viruses and, though she has trouble having fun through any of the popular PC games, she stays healthy and fast. Kato even did the photo editing above using GIMP, a major upgrade over MS Paint.

Can you tell I’m infatuated? Just watching the little cursor blink in the command terminal is enough to get me going and on more than one occasion I have put on her screen saver as a stress reliever.

In fact, I even wrote some lyrics, to be sung to the tune of George Strait’s “How ‘Bout Them Cowgirls” about Kato:

I felt the rush of the Windows operating system
And I've seen first-hand Macintosh
And the motherboard
I've Criss-crossed down to nVIDIA
And Vista via XP and 2000

Think I've seen it all
And all I can say is

How 'bout that Linux
Boys ain't it somethin'

Sure are some proud distros
And you can't tell them nothin'
And I tell you right now
May just be seven wonders of this big, old round world
But how 'bout that Linux.

OK, I’ll stop. Everyone, say hello to Kato. And say goodbye to Steve, who, by the way, is sobbing on the curb like an abandoned woman and is about to Let Himself Go. Off with the old, on with the new, eh?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

What To Get the FCN fan who has Everything.

Just in time for Black Friday, we've unveiled two more FCN products: a tie and a mug. Nothing spells classy better than one of these two pieces of gear, except maybe an object with actual class. The fact is, we're just trying to ride the holiday buying rush by boosting our royalty profits beyond the one dollar mark. If we can scrape up enough to take ourselves to In N Out for Christmas, we'll be happy.

So please, people. We're asking nicely. Spread the holiday cheer our way. Buy presents for all the relatives you don't know well enough to find thoughtful gifts for. Or for an FCN fan. If you happen to know one.

Would it help if we told you the money goes to help starving kids in Africa who can't have Christmas? Also, that it's patriotic? And that Chuck Norris wants you to buy it?

Just head on over here, which is the same as


Don't forget the asterisk, which gives us brownie points with Zazzle for some reason. We've been through this.

Life Tip #47

Don't steal from the cash machine at a car wash.

If you must steal from the cash machine at a car wash, don't tell your drug dealer about it.

If you must steal from the cash machine at a car wash and tell your drug dealer about it, don't purchase a car in quarters.

Monday, November 19, 2007

25 Things Your Janitor Wants You to Know

FCN recently received the following email:

"Can you please tell your readers not to clip their toenails during church? They always throw them under the pew, right where it is almost impossible to vacuum up."

Me and my fellow Janitors

Before going any further, let us tell you - please don't clip your toenails during church. But of course there's plenty more to being a janitor than just vacuuming clipped nails. Here's a few more helpful hints:

1. The belly of the table is not a good place to store gum.
2. Please, no indoor fires.
3. Stepping on trash actually makes the rubbish harder to deal with.
4. If it's beeping, ask for help before smashing.
5. Exploring is for the mountains, not the train station.
6. You don't know how to clean that up and you're getting underfoot.
7. Eat your ice cream over the tile.
8. Don't imagine no one will notice that you spilled tomato sauce on your beige cloth-padded chair.
9. I didn't even know that spot existed, and now you've gone and hidden a hymnal there.
10. Just flush already.
11. When it's closing time, get out of there.
12. Just because you smell smoke doesn't mean you're allowed to throw your beer at something.
13. Do I really have to ask you not to walk across the floor while it's being mopped?
14. There's no shame in being a janitor; you don't have to use terms like custodial technician, sanitation supervisor, domestic engineer, guest service associate, environmental services associate, or floor maintenance sanitation engineer.
15. When pouring the punch, a little caution goes a long way.
16. You won't get locked into the building.
17. Don't blame the janitor if there's no toilet paper. Blame the guy who came before you.
18. Spitting is not cool.
19. It's not hot either.
20. Landing near the trash can is hardly the same thing as landing inside it.
21. Do you really need five feet of paper towel to dry your hands?
22. Leaving notes to brighten the Janitor's day is self-defeating.
23. Waxed floors are slippery, Captain Stupid.
24. Keep your grubby hands out of the utility shed.
25. If you must clip your toenails during church, don't throw them on the floor where they're almost impossible to vacuum up.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Post #366

For the last 377 days, we were eagerly anticipating an event that can never really be duplicated in the blogosphere: our first birthday. There's something about making it one whole year that establishes a blog; it gives us credibility. We've posted every day for the last year, more or less, and we've provided quality content every time, more or less. Okay fine. Mostly less.

But in any case, we're still around. We haven't grown much, but we sure haven't shrunk (probably because there was nowhere to go but up). We've added family members Uncle Wally and Mommy G. We've got much-loved readers like Adrialien, Chris, Trevor, Em, Batman, the dudes from rFCN ... even Anonymous, who really seems to get around. We've had our share of scandal and revolution. The steady downward spirals of our love lives have been carefully documented. We made contact with extra-terrestrial beings. We interviewed various leaders. We apologized 11 times. We almost drank enough Coke. We unveiled dangerous conspiracies. Heck, we even ate a whole mess of tacquitos.

Through it all, we've grown stronger as people, closer as friends, and more committed to our founding ideals of

Okay, it was clear that the above paragraph wasn't going anywhere so I jumped ship. Let's start over:

Through it all, we've posted a lot.

Well, sadly, after all that anticipation, we went ahead and missed our own birthday. We should have posted last November 4th, the day we first came to blogger. We could have blown candles and wallowed in nostalgia about how far we've come. But we totally blew it. After all that anticipation, that day was passed with no heralding whatsoever. We didn't even post that day! Sad, sad, sad.

So now, all we can do is do what we've always done.

We can apologize. We messed up again. Our first birthday is gone forever. But next year, we'll get it right. We promise. You can trust us. This time.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

This is an unnecessarily long post!






This i

This is

This is

This is a

This is an

This is an

This is an u

This is an un

This is an unn

This is an unne

This is an unnec

This is an unnece

This is an unneces

This is an unnecess

This is an unnecessa

This ia an unnecessar

This is an unnecessari

This is an unnecessaril

This is an unnecessarily

This is an unnecessarily

This is an unnecessarily l

This is an unnecessarily lo

This is an unnecessarily lon

This is an unnecessarily long

This is an unnecessarily long

This is an unnecessarily long p

This is an unnecessarily long po

This is an unnecessarily long pos

This is an unnecessarily long post

This is an unnecessarily long post!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


The comptroller general of the United States, the man who has the very stressful and harried job of measuring how far in debt our government is and reporting said number to the Department of Treasury, recently released the current data on our financial situation. And the synopsis was, at predictable face value, very red.

According to report that made its way to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's desk late last week, if the national debt were divided up evenly over the entire population, we would each owe $175,000. The comptroller general wasn't specific as to whether this number includes illegal immigrants and minors, who in their own way contribute to the national economy, or was just limited to taxpayers, but regardless the number does look very red. But I said that before.

Financial experts will give themselves a litany of medical conditions as they worry about this new information and poorly informed Americans - those who don't read FCN - will wonder why this figure is so high and how such seemingly gargantuan debt is justified. Dogs will also bark, terrorists will blow themselves up and the Olsen Twins will lose weight, but none of these are, as far as I can see, related to the debt issue.

What a lot of Americans are ignoring when they decry the $175,000 is that this debt provides some serious lifestyle advantages to us. The funds are not wasted. In fact, some would say debt is the path worn smooth by the American Dream. We, the FCN staff, took a vacation from our usual dereliction and went to the library to conduct some research on the advantages our government is providing you and me with the $175,000. Here's what we found:

$1,000,000 (about six people's worth of debt) from the Defense Department is spent to fund an Allen Telescope Array in Mountain View, Calif. This “alien” project is part of SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). SETI describes the telescope as “dedicated to astronomical and simultaneous search for extra-terrestrial intelligence observations.” A good investment considering the dangers aliens pose in our modern world. The Defense Department was thinking ahead with this one. I'll bet this Allen fellow was happy to spend $175,000 on it, too.

$5,500,000 (about 31 people's worth of debt) from the Defense Department to fund the Gallo Center, a neuroscience clinic designed to study the effects of alcohol and drug abuse on the brain. The folks in DC figure that, after aliens, drunks are the biggest threat to national security. No private sector organizations were willing to undertake this responsibility The government is looking out for us.

$352,000 (about two people's worth of debt) from the Department of Agriculture for floriculture research. It's only two people out of 300 million and think of how much more beautiful flowers will be. You will be thanking Uncle Sam for this expenditure next Valentine's Day.

$2,300,000 (about 13 people's worth of debt) from the Foreign Operations budget for the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC). The IFDC, now in its ninth year, helps to augment foreign soil management. Because soil is a terrible thing to mismanage.

$350,000 (about two people's worth of debt) from the Department of Interior to fund hanging baskets in Chicago. Boy, those little floral and straw arrangements really spruce up the Windy City. In fact, the program managed to design, install and maintain 950 baskets so far, at a price of roughly $368 each. Money well spent.

$150,000 (about one person's worth of debt) from the National Park Service budget for the Actors Theater in Louisville, Kentucky. One of the theater’s productions is called Bad Date, in which “a feisty single mom relocates to the big city, finds a new career and jumps back into the shark-infested dating pool only to find herself on the wrong side of the law…the hilarious and unforgettable story of one woman's love life, her anticipation of (and recovery from) each new date and the fabulous shoe collection that saves her every time!” Expensive and edifying!

$450,000 (about three people's worth of debt) spent by the Legislative Budget for plantings on the eastern front of the Capitol. This will allow members of Congress a chance to “stop and smell the roses” before they proceed with spending more of our money. Don't worry, though. For almost a half-million dollars, these roses are sure to be extra-nice.

$250,000 (about two people's worth of debt) from the Transportation Budget for the National Cattle Congress (NCC) in Waterloo, Iowa. Fair activities include: the Second Annual Cattle Congress Cage Combat, the ‘Survivor” Family Game Show, Jocko & the J’s Monkey Show, and Steeple’s Wild West Bear Show. Well worth the price of admission.

$47,326,000 (about 270 people's worth of debt) by the Department of the Interior for projects in the state of Alaska, including: $1,100,000 for the Matunuska-Susitna Borough; $750,000 for the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park; $450,000 for the Bering Sea Fisherman’s Association; $400,000 for the Ketchikan Wood Technology Center; $150,000 for the Alaska Whaling Commission; and $98,000 for the Alaska Sea Otter Commission. Too bad Alaska isn't pitching in more; at least the otters are happy.

And that's just scratching the surface. Our elected officials find so many ways to satisfy our every need and desire. It just seems so wrong to complain about the price tag. Capitol Hill means well and we end up will all kinds of cool stuff when they decide to be generous in what they bestow. Why do we have to be haters? Can't we just enjoy the blessings of our government?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Desperate Student, Episode 14: Rebel Fighter

This is the 14th episode of the Desperate Student series. Get caught up before proceeding.

There's something about looking down the barrels of dozens of automatic weapons that makes you wish you were back in America stapling pages.

I found myself stranded on an airport tarmac deep in Zimbabwe surrounded by rebels, clutching the triggers to a jeep-mounted machine gun. My comrades, Ned, Vince, and Xavier, just sat and stared.

The silence got awkward fast.

One of the rebels lowered his weapon and marched forward with his left palm facing us. He had a red scarf wrapped around his head and appeared to wield authority over the others.

"Don't shoot," It wasn't a request. The rebel's English was only slightly accented. "You get off jeep."

"What do we do?" Vince moaned.

"We do as he says," Said Ned, unbuckling. He stepped confidently out of the jeep, arms raised.

Xavier and Vince followed suit. After a moment of hesitation, I let go of the triggers and hopped down. "We come in peace," I said.

"No," Said the man. "You come for war."

"Oh no!" Vince screamed. "They're going to kill us! Oh, mama! I don't want to die out here!"

"Shut up," Said the rebel.

"Please don't shoot," Vince wailed, falling to his knees. "I'm too desperate to die."

This resonated with me, and I got down next to Vince. "He's right," I said, raising clasped hands. "Surely there's a way we can talk ourselves out of this!"

The rebel stared at us for several seconds. "You Americans?" He asked.

"Yes!" Cried Vince. "We're Americans! You can hold us for ..."

"Quiet!" Shouted Xavier.

"My name," Said the rebel, "Is Banga Banga. You cowboys help us win fight."

There were several seconds of stunned silence. Xavier was the first to realize what Banga Banga wanted. "Get off jeep, he say ..."

"We'll do it," Said Ned. "Where do we sign?"

"You have guns?"

"We have the machine gun and some explosives."

Banga Banga turned to his minions and shouted a few words in Zimbabwean. All the rebels cheered and fired shots into the air.

"You go blow up Mugabe's palace with explosives."

"We're going to die," Vince moaned.

"Keep it together," I hissed. Then, louder: "What do we get in exchange?"

"In exchange, we give you one million dollar!"

"Sweet mama," Vince whispered.

"Don't forget you have to split it four ways," Said Xavier.

"We'll do it anyway," Said Ned. "Where's Mugabe's palace?"

Banga Banga pointed at a pre-teen boy carrying an RPG. "This my son, Chipa Chipo. He show you the way."

Chipa tossed the rocket launcher casually at Xavier, who dove to catch it. "Go!" Chipa Chipo cried, hopping onto the back bumper. "Go, go!"

Ned climbed back behind the wheel and buckled up. "Okay," He said as the rest of us loaded up, "How are we going to do this?"

"We've got a box of dynamite and two grenades," I said. "Anyone know anything about demolition?"

Ned slowly pulled off the tarmac and onto the road. Chipa Chipo pointed north. "Go!" We accelerated slowly. I kept my eyes peeled for loyalist patrols.

"Seriously, you guys," Said Xavier. "You want us to ride an obviously hostile jeep straight into the capital of Zimbabwe, walk past a bunch of armed guards, and build bombs out of volatile materials we have no idea how to use?"

"Oh, mama," Moaned Vince. "We're going to die after all."

"We have no choice," Said Ned. "So let's find a way to do this."

"Why don't we just forget the rebels?" I asked. "Let's sell the jeep for tickets home."

"Tickets from where? The airport is gone," Xavier pointed out.

"And if we stay here much longer, Jane is bound to find us," Added Ned.

"I don't want to die," Vince wailed.

"Pull yourselves together, people!" I shouted. "Come on! There's a million dollars on the line. If we succeed, we can all go home on the black market and support girlfriends when we get there. If not, we die. So let's think calmly! Come on!"

"You're right," Said Ned, very sensibly I thought. "What are our options?"

"I say we divide up with specific tasks," I suggested, "Then make it up as we go along."

"Sounds fool proof," Said Ned.

"I call lookout!" Cried Vince.

Xavier sighed. "You'll make me light the fuse. I just know it."

Ned took charge. "I'll take Chipa Chipo into the palace to disable the guards. Vince, you keep watch."

"I'll lay the dynamite," I offered.

"And Xavier, you'll light the fuse. It'll be fun."

For a half-hour, we rode with only the sound of the motor and Xavier's quiet muttering. Then the jungle road widened and we hit pavement, and moments later we were zipping through downtown Harare. The citizens all stopped and stared as we drove by; even the police (who rode in white and red vans) seemed too surprised by us to lift a finger. Chipa Chipo's directions were flawless. He had Ned weaving in and out of traffic, maneuvering deeper and deeper into the city, taking every shortcut ever invented (which is a lot).

After another ten minutes, we parked at the edge of a lawn. Past the lawn was a high concrete wall. There was barbed wire ringing the top, and machine gun towers watched the whole area from every corner.

"Is this it?" Ned asked.

Chipa Chipo nodded eagerly and pointed at the gate, which was watched by six armed guards. "Go!"

The guards had noticed my machine gun; two of them peeled off and marched toward us.

"Here they come!" Vince shouted. "Shoot! Shoot!"

I squeezed the triggers. Hot lead poured from the .50 cal and strafed the lawn. Clods of grassy dirt were tossed into the breeze; the air heated and grew smoky.

Over the bone-rattling din of the gun, I heard Vince cry: "Frag out!"

"No!" Cried Ned. "We need that grenade to set off the ..." His lament was drowned by a deafening boom. I was unlucky enough to be looking straight at the grenade when it went off; I saw a flash of light and got pretty dizzy. Next thing I knew I was lying on the ground behind the jeep.

Chipa Chipo mounted up; his arms were barely able to reach the triggers. "Go!" He shouted.

"Okay, but I don't like this," Said Ned. He floored the gas. I was left behind in a cloud of dust, warm bullet casings, and monkey doo-doo labels. The jeep careened past the guards, through the gate, into the compound, and out of sight.

The guards stopped to reload. I noticed that no one seemed to be hurt.

All was quiet.

Then they saw me lying on the lawn.

I've lived a life full of social faux pas. I'm not good at handling people. I often say the wrong thing at the wrong time. But I tell you honestly that that was the most awkward moment of my life. For fully thirty seconds, we just stared at each other.

I was the first to break the silence. I raised my right hand and waved hesitantly. "Hey guys," I called softly. "What's up?"

As if snapping out of a daze, the guards all lifted their weapons and pointed them at me. I searched desperately for some form of cover. I was totally exposed. It seemed my desperate antics had finally gotten the best of me.

Then I heard a Vince's loud shout from inside the compound: "Oh, mama!" Then a massive boom; the sky was filled with red smoke, and pieces of jeep rained down all around. I took advantage of the distraction to turn and run for dear life.

My flight carried me into an angry mob of citizens carrying improvised explosives, old rifles, and of course, pitchforks. I struggled against the human tide, but for several seconds I found myself powerless against it. Then I heard the machine gun towers start firing, and my desperation conquered my etiquette (as usual). With a roar, I plunged into the human tide, kicking, punching, and shoving. The crowd parted like a wave before me; I sprinted down the street and turned a few corners. I didn't stop to catch my breath until the mob was just a distant roar. Then I clapped my hands on my knees and gasped for a few minutes.

When I lifted my head, Banga Banga and his rebels were standing all around.

Another awkward moment.

"I tell you blow up palace!" Banga Banga shouted.

"I know, I'm sorry. I was going to, but ..."

"You great hero in Zimbabwe nation." Banga Banga flashed a huge smile and slapped me roundly on the back. "Great hero! Very great hero. You understand?"

"I understand money," I said.

"Yes, yes. I give you one million dollar." Banga Banga reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet. He started pulling out bills and counting. "Two hundred, four, six hundred, eight hundred ... one million dollar." He pushed the money into my hand with another smile. "Great hero," He repeated. Then he and his men charged down the street and were gone.

I looked down at the massive sum of money in my hand. I had thought it would be bigger. It was just twenty little pieces of paper. Well, I wasn't about to go looking for my comrades to split up the loot. Nor did I have any intention of sticking around waiting for the rebels, the loyalists, or worse, Jane, to figure me out and invite me to a party. I could use this money to go home, set myself up nicely, and sweep Suzy off her feet once and for all. Life was finally going to be okay.

I made my way to the nearest bank and converted the money into US currency. It was the first paycheck I had received in Africa. The grand total: seven American dollars and eighty-one cents.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Screaming in the loot

The other day I attended the season home opener for my school's acclaimed Division I men's basketball team. If you've followed FCN for a while, you may recall that I am one of the most vocal and aggressive fans a team could ever dream of. For me, a team's success is personal; a victory for the boys on the court is an inspiration for the rest of week, a boost better than caffeine and taurine and a loss is an equally effective depressant. In fact, I've been able correlate bad moods to my team's poor performances and some people may even be able to use competitive performance as a predictive barometer of humor.

For all the readers that I didn't lose with two dollar phrases like "competitive performance" and "predictive barometer," the implication of my approach to watching sports is that I do everything in my power to see the team I'm rooting for win. Everything, that is, short of donating money to BALCO laboratories.

It's often said that the "sixth man" in sports is the home crowd. We may look weekend warriors, sitting in the stands like so many Monday morning quarterbacks, chugging down calorie laden drinks and life shortening snacks, but actually lusty cheers are a motivating force for the team. At least that's what we'd like to think. It's also what the media, sports leagues and colleges want us to think, but that's beside the point.

In an effort to encourage louder cheering, many organizations will throw "goodies" like shirts, commemorative balls and coupons into the stands, creating an entertaining frenzy among the audience as we struggle amongst ourselves like poorly raised children for possession. Generally, the louder you cheer, the more goodies get thrown your way, meaning that those who have been naturally blessed with loud voices run away with the most loot.

I scream loudly. That is, I do my vocal best to see my team to victory. I shout so loudly, in fact, that a friend who was listening to one of my team's games on the radio heard my voice and recognized it as mine. I use a handful of prepared taunts, print out the visiting team's roster so I can shout player's first names and join in with the cheerleaders on all their routines.

And my efforts are normally generously rewarded. For instance, I caught a couple of shirts, a few coupons and trinkets and an occasional free hot dog last season. I never got a chance to really dominate with my catches because of the enthusiastic gyrations of my good friend Nick, who always sat next to me and made like Champ Bailey or Asante Samuel as he did his best to disrupt my flow. That's right, Nick was throwing off my groove.

Well, now Nick is in Virginia studying his happy hands off and I got my first chance to make a grab at goody history at the season opener.

I was terribly disappointed when I heard from my inside man (a friend who is employed by the team's "Loud Squad") that no T-shirts would be handed out because of a miscommunication with the textile supplier. Despite the lack of supply, I managed to pull down the following (itemized with estimated resale value):

In N' Out Burger coupons ($2 value) x3 = $6.

PomPom ($3 value) x 1 = $3.

Balloons imprinted with the team logo ($.50 value) x 2 = $1.

Team bumpersticker ($.50 value) x 1 = $.50

Media guide to the conference's athletics ($5 value) x 1 = $5

That's eight items worth an estimated $15.50. And, as a student, game admission was free. Over the course of a two hour game, I got paid better than minimum wage to watch my favorite team sport.

And that's not counting the hot dog that my friend Ally swiped away from me at the last second (sitting where Nick normally would) and the Frisbee that buzzed just over my outstretched arm in the middle of a full leap (it landed three rows above me).

But I'm not writing this post just to brag; of course, that's a solid justification, but I have other, more altruistic reasons, too. I am writing to share a few of my hoarse secrets to other fans. Follow my directions and you may find yourself rolling in the the loot:

1) Sit 5-15 rows from the court. Positioning is key. Objects are generally thrown with little more than arm technology. Sure, air compressors are sometimes used to allow the compliments to reach the rafters, but a good 80-90% of all tosses are made from the court to the rows indicated above. Don't sit too close to the court or you'll be overthrown.

2) Befriend. I learned this tip from the New England Patriots. The best way to win is to bend the rules a little. If you see an employee marching around before the game, introduce yourself and ask to be helped out. Say you are trying to impress your girlfriend or that you'll split the pizza with him later. To the girls: A megawatt smile won't hurt your chances.

3) Scream your head off. Nobody ever caught anything by staying silent (unless of course, we're talking about Nick, but most of his catches were on throws intended for me). The louder you get, the more your inside man will feel justified in throwing your way.

4) Takeaways from kindergarteners do count. I know some people think it looks bad to steal a commemorative goodie from a six-year old attending his first college game, but when we're talking about loot, "you gotta do whatcha gotta do." That six-year old is playing a man's game. Trust me, no one will remember the teary eyed face of the whippersnapper you ripped off. Your T-shirt count will live in infamy.

5) Be ready for anything. Sometimes a ball will be thrown several rows above you and then be deflected down. You need to always have your head in the game and be ready to handle whatever the other fans throw your way. Remember that a juggled catch may mean the difference between another T-shirt and, well, not another T-shirt.

That about covers it. Try it yourself at the next sporting event you attend. If you break my record, write us an email and tell us about your exploits. Be sure to include a picture of the loot and a medical report detailing the damage to your vocal cords. Extra points will be awarded for crying six-year olds.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Rise and Fall of the American Automaker

Try something for me, will you? Ask a handful of friends what kind of car they drive. You don't have to quit your day job or go all Zogby on us to get a representative sample - that kind of work has already been done - just ask around. If your circle of friends is like the students who take economics with me (poor and too hungry to care) you will hear a lot of Toyota, Honda and, Nissan; a lot of Japanese-made cars.

In fact six of the top ten most commonly stolen cars are Acuras, made by a division of Honda. The most commonly stolen Acura is the Integra. While some feel this is a reflection on the relative ease with which a delinquent can steal these vehicles, others note that common cars are the "safe" cars to steal. The authorities will notice the Mustang GT they see on the freeway and may let a Honda Civic roll on by because of how easily it can be confused with the umpteen others just like it on the road.

As an aside, the most commonly stolen car in 2005 was the BMW Roadster. Now that's just cruel. No good, very bad, awful, pathetic, nasty and sordid. Somebody gets a souped up vehicular, a really nice whip and a neglected youth wearing pants that were designed for Rosie O'Donnell and a jacket from Jay-Z's line has to go snitch it. Seriously, if you're going to rip someone off, take the clunker. Do the owner a favor. At least with the lemon, the insurance has a chance of overvaluing the car.

In my class, seven of ten students drove a foreign car and over half of the students drove a Japanese car. I was in the minority - GO USA - with a Michigan manufactured Ford.

Apparently, my minority status extends beyond the walls of my classroom because Americans are buying foreign cars like they're shares of Google. Bloomberg, a business news organization that tried to make an optimistic sounding name but instead ended up confusing everyone, reports that Toyota is actually increasing market share in the United States.

I'm going to write that again so everyone who was browsing the other tab and waiting for me to stop presenting facts can catch up. Toyota, a car company whose first three letters spell "toy," is selling more cars to people in the US. Can you get your mind around this? While you and I, the American taxpayer, are pumping billions of dollars into these domestic companies to get support their ridiculously extravagant employee pension programs, we turn around and buy a car designed in Bunkyo Tokyo. Sure, lots of Japanese cars are made in North America, but the feds don't pump $51,000 per year per employee into bailing out Kiichiro Toyoda's brainchild.

Instead of letting you and I pick which cars we like, our elected reps choose for us. And, like most political decision makers, the suits in DC are terribly inconsistent with their vehicle selection policy. While they pump your piggy bank savings into the coffers of bankrupt domestic car companies, foreign-made hybrids like the Prius and Camry are given differential treatment on our highways. Ever seen a fuel efficient car glide down the carpool lane in rush hour traffic with only one occupant? Well I have. And they never get pulled over by the traffic pigs. That's because our beloved government grants hybrids an eco-pass.

Can you understand this? Watching this situation is a little bit like seeing Tom Brady get sacked (by a linebacker, not Gisele) - you can't comprehend it. OK, so that's two Patriots analogies in three weeks; I have nothing to say for myself.

Back to the topic, my point in addressing the vehicle market is simply to advise you, the faithful FCN few, to buy domestic. The federal government has made an important decision for us and we would be committing utter folly to not follow Uncle Sam's lead. A caring and considerate big brother is pointing us toward the appropriate vehicle choice - a choice that secures employee benefits and allows the worker ants of our economy to be confident in their retirement. Buying foreign wastes that $51,000 per employee.

In other words, when you buy foreign, you deprive America's hard working middle class of pensions, eliminate the gifts they would otherwise bless their grandchildren with, ruin the outlook and inherent happiness of the American way, destroy economic cohesiveness, anger the government and start wars. Yes, you start wars. Bleep you!

Think of it this way: If that Corolla costs you an additional $51,000 on top of the sticker price, would you still buy it? Is an economy car really worth $70,000? And do you really want you car stolen? I didn't think so.

See? DailyKos doesn't have a corner on the mindless anger market. Conservatives can be irrationally mad, too!

What the heck, just buy a Roadster.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Three on One with Barack Obama

In our continuing quest to understand the American political process and find a candidate that is both appealing and acceptable to our discerning political palate, the FCN team placed a phone call to Barack Hussein Obama's presidential campaign office and asked for a teleconference with the Illinois Senator. The campaign refused to offer us an audience unless our interview team included at least one minority. We lied about our ethnic heritage (N pretended to be a Jamaican bobsledder) and got through to Mr. Hussein Obama with relative ease.

//Begin Transcript

Barack Hussein Obama: This is Barack Hussein Obama speaking.

FCN: Mr. Hussein Obama, thank you sincerely for agreeing to this interview. We write for a humor and satire blog and are looking at various major presidential candidates in the hope of finding a suitable prospect for endorsement. If you don't mind, we have a few questions about your political stance...

BHO: That's a great idea, kids. You know, most youth in this great land fail to grasp the opportunities that are set before them; economic or political. I took those opportunities when I was young. I started out as the the ghetto black loser and through education, refinement and law school have shed that hip past and become a white person in a black man's body. I'm really glad to hear how you have done that. The Jamaican writer you have, for instance, he sounds pretty white. I like that.

FCN: And you've made that transformation very well, Mr. Obama. That transitions very well into our next question about minority rights. You are a strong advocate of equality as a Senator, how do you see that advocacy continuing as President?

BHO: I really don't. My big thing in the Oval Office is health care. Ask me about health care.

FCN: OK. What about health care?

BHO: I have a plan that would give low cost, affordable, inexpensive and cheap health care to every American and most foreigners, too. It really wouldn't matter what you want sucked out or puffed up or cleaned; my plan finds the doctor to fix it. I think it is wrong to have to pay for health services. Morally wrong. We shouldn't let people starve, nor should we let them get sick. That's why my plan includes the distribution of blankets to the homeless along with sanitary drug paraphernalia. That's a moral determination, not an economic one.

FCN: It all sounds so perfect; so grand.

BHO: It is. Under my presidency, all the oppressed, downtrodden, entitled and underprivileged would suffer no more. I like the ring of that. Go ahead and include that in your article, if you would please. Hang on a second, gentlemen. [BACKGROUND] Janice? Add that line to my Iowa stump, would you?

FCN: Who is your biggest role model?

BHO: Michael Jackson. White people in general.

FCN: Oh, MJ. Excellent. He really moves well for a 40 something.

BHO: Indeed he does. Ask me about my education policy..

FCN: OK, what about your education policy?

BHO: [Chuckles] So glad you asked. [Chuckles again, louder this time] Schooling is just way too expensive. Education is the solution to all the world's problems. AIDS, war, the Republican Party. You name the ill, education is the solution. There are brothers - wait. Do white people use the term brothers? [BACKGROUND] Janice? [A MOMENT LATER] A large portion of this great land's minority community never gets a proper education. From the time they can crawl until the moment they die, people should be learning. A lot of that learning should happen in government funded schools. And it should all be free. I'll do that under my Presidency. I guarantee it, as sure as the White Sox won the series last year.

FCN: Which is, we assume, pretty well assured.

BHO: Indeed it is. Well, gentleman, I have Howard Dean waiting just outside. He wants to coordinate my rhetoric with some local politicians. Thanks for taking the interview. I trust I can rely on your vote come the primary?

FCN: We'll let you know on that, Senator. Thanks to you, too. Say hi to the former Governor for us.

//End Transcript

After we replaced the phone in its cradle, the three of us sat around the table for several solid minutes and said nothing. Barack Obama's interview was not only profound, it was a clear clincher. No other candidate had offered such a clear mandate for making life easier for derelicts like us. No other candidate had promised free education and health care without threatening to take away our cars. No other candidate had presented such a clear mandate and vision for our nation. We like this Obama fellow...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Hire FCN!

If you watch televised news, you may have seen the picket lines forming in front of the formidable buildings of Hollywood production houses as a few hundred writers went on strike this week. If you don't watch the televised news, you may have read the same in any of the plethora of news articles on the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike.

If you don't read the news (an understandable sentiment given how dark most news stories are anyway) and instead get your take on the world exclusively from FCN (equally dark, I'm afraid), here's what's happening in Tinsel Town:

500 hundred people with super cushy jobs and excellent benefits, some making as much as $5 million a year, are upset with the current state of TV and film writing. It's unclear exactly what they don't like about it, but they're really fired up. Control central for the WGA (7000 West Third Street, Los Angeles, CA 90048) printed off a bunch of snazzy signs for these disgruntled millionaires to tote around and single handedly ground the humor, film and TV writing industry to a halt.

For writers, the slogans the strikers came up with were downright pedestrian, almost like generic AFL-CIO fare; they were the kind of prefab garbage the automakers might use. One would think writers would have a message that is at least halfway creative like "WE WRITERS BE STRIKERS," but the two signs I've seen so far say nothing more than "ON STRIKE" (doh!) and "UNFAIR IS UNFUNNY." Actually, sir, we in the real world find your disappointment with a $400,000 paycheck to be the height of hilarity. It's something like the laugh we get from seeing a pie thrown in Curly's face.

Here at FCN, we think the only thing we think is atrocious is having the funny stuff pulled off the TV. As avowed derelicts, television content is very important to us and the negative impact of the WGA's decision is reverberating across the fruited plain. Jay Leno had to broadcast a rerun last night and his jokes, which were just barely funny the first time, came off even flatter. David Letterman was forced to actually think for himself and Stephen Colbert held his dumb look for much too long.

Speaking directly to the strikers, your strike has a ripple effect throughout the entire entertainment industry. We all know Jessica Alba can't say anything smart without a writer; how dare you expose her? What will Patrick Dempsey be without a script? How will Ang Lee churn out his garbage movies without a half decent writer? I'll wager George Clooney will be a shadow of his Sexiest Man Alive glory without your eloquence; do you even care about the Cloonster and his injured girlfriend? Will you force all of Hollywood into a vicious choice between Larry David style improve and reality TV? What a terrible dichotomy! You ought to be ashamed of yourselves!

As usual, FCN comes to the rescue (dun dun dun!) and has a perfect solution for all involved. Why not hire the FCN staff to do the humor writing? We aren't members of any union and would happily work for half the price of the WGA folks, although the studios would have to give us some free DVDs and Mommy G would have to approve the projects. We've shown we can write great love stories, action adventure and everything in between. We've done character development, thematic work and educational. We have even dabbled in current events humor, a resume item that we would highlight when pitching our skills to the late night humorists.

Plus we're unknown. You wouldn't have to give us top billing in the credits and it will be a few years before we begin making extreme demands and start going Hollywood. Just give us a chance and we will prove to be as jocose as any WGA writer. You can take that to the bank - or at least the picket line.

So come on, WGA. We're waiting.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Life Tip #46

Don't go out to sea by yourself.

If you must go out to sea by yourself, bring along a life vest.

If you must go out to sea by yourself and don't like the fashion of today's life vests, bring along a flare.

If you must go out to sea by yourself without any safety equipment, bring a strong will to live.

American Drivers

Chelsea has a problem.

Chelsea has a tooth ache.
Chelsea goes to the dentist.
The dentist tells Chelsea that her wisdom teeth will have to go.
Chelsea schedules an appointment.
The next week, Chelsea goes in for her surgery.
A nurse puts Chelsea in a special chair.
The doctor puts a needle into Chelsea's arm.
Chelsea falls asleep.
Chelsea wakes up a little later.
Four of her teeth are missing.
Chelsea is very, very groggy.
Chelsea stumbles back to her car.
After several failed attempts, Chelsea puts the key in the ignition and drives away.
Five minutes later, Chelsea feels a terrible pain in her jaw.
Chelsea tries to open her mouth.
Chelsea can't.
The pain gets worse.
Chelsea can't take it anymore.
Chelsea pulls over at a local pub.
Chelsea knocks back several shots of Jack Daniel's.
Chelsea can't remember how many.
Chelsea feels better.
Chelsea resumes the drive home.
Chelsea is too drunk to notice that she is in the wrong vehicle.
Chelsea doesn't realize she has exploited a set of keys that were left in the ignition of an old van.
Chelsea feels weak and happy.
Chelsea's foot slowly descends on the gas pedal.
Chelsea's stolen vehicle goes faster and faster.
Soon, Chelsea is rocketing down the road at a hundred miles an hour.
A police car signals for Chelsea to pull over.
Chelsea doesn't notice.
Chelsea drives faster.
Chelsea's van drifts into oncoming traffic.
Then Chelsea gets a phone call.
Chelsea fumbles for her cell phone.
Chelsea opens the phone and asks who is calling.
Seconds later, Chelsea's van slams into another car.
Chelsea is unhurt.
The other driver spends six months in therapy.
The other driver's insurance company refuses to pay.
Chelsea's insurance company refuses to pay.
Chelsea was driving under the influence of alcohol and general anesthesia.
Chelsea was resisting arrest.
Chelsea was manning a stolen vehicle.
Chelsea was speeding.
Chelsea was driving in the wrong lane.
Chelsea does doing what any red-blooded American would do.
Chelsea sues her dentist and is awarded six million dollars by a sympathetic jury.