Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ghostly Insomnia

Ladies and Gentlemen, last night I was sleeping soundly, but thirst got the better of me and I woke to wet my parched mouth. The room was noticably warmer than when I went to sleep. No wonder I was thirsty. I rolled over to drink from the cup I had sitting on the night stand. As I did so, I saw a shadowy human shaped figure dart away--emphasis on the shadow part. I woke several times that night, always thirsty, always hot. I only saw ghostly movement once more. The other times I kept my eyes shut. I didn't want to deal with it. Clearly, this ghost is almost certainly Oliver Cromwell who no doubt shut off the air conditioner because he seems to hate all things technological.

Look, Mr. Cromwell, that kind of behavior is uncalled for. England is located roughly between 50 and 60 degrees latitude. Mississippi is sitting smack dab at thirty. I don't think you realize, oh ghost of -ocracies past, what a difference that makes temperature-wise. I've been to England this time of year. It can be kind of nice. But guess what, sunshine, our low temperature today is right where your high is. That's right. You're looking at a low 48/high 67. My place has 67 degrees for our low temperature for today. Mind you, this is presented in Fahrenheit because if you're going to go cutting off my A/C in the middle of the night, I'm not going to exert the effort needed to convert to Celcius for you. Plus, you kinda died before Celsius was established. Granted, you kinda died before Fahrenheit was established as well. How convenient that you should die before science established any reliable temperature gague beyond the Freezing-Cold-Cool-Luke Warm-Warm-Hot-Screw This I'm Going Swimming. Let me guess, all of this death before thermometers was done simply so you could pretend to be ingnorant when you turned off that vital cool air in the middle of the night and then in the morning, be like, "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know what those numbers mean. I'm a ghost. Oooooo!"

I'm hip to your little games, Cromwell.

You have been informed.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Subscriber Appreciation 2: Electric Boogaloo

Ladies and Gentlemen, it's that time again. Subscriber Appreciation time, in which we all get to know a little something about each other. Four is my favorite number, you see. Because I've had four new subscribers since the last time I did this, I think it's time to do it again. Four Unknown Facts about Four of you.

Four Unknown Facts about Trevor:
  1. Trevor is a master of bovine teleportation to the extent that a song was written about him.
  2. Trevor knows what happened to Jimmy Hoffa.
  3. Trevor's original Craigslist experiment failed to get IRB approval, and as such, he turned to his current project. I won't divulge what, but let's say they the Institutional Review Board has a problem with anything experiment that involves small animals, drywall, and and the unwilling participation of at least three Trail Blazers, regardless of how valuable the hypothesis could prove.
  4. Trevor had a dinner date set up with Tyra Banks until she realized he said he wanted to be America's next top remodeler.
Four Unknown Facts about John:
  1. John has a sixth sense that allows him to locate sweet videos on the internet the way Monterey Jack can detect cheese.
  2. John is a wordsmith in the truest sense of the word. He has an anvil upon which he places red-hot verbs and adjectives and then strikes them until they are something else. He does not do prepositions, though. Those are close class words, and thus, do not smelt as easily.
  3. John once made a phonecall from the TARDIS to his cellphone so the he could have that number handy in case he needed it. Then his phone fell in a pond.
  4. The Kingdom wasn't united until John convinced it to sit down at the table and talk out its differences.

Four Unknown Facts about Debbie:
  1. Debbie speaks Cat, but doesn't know it because cats, upon realizing someone can understand them, speak only kitty gibberish in that person's presence until said individual is convinced it was all a dream.
  2. Debbie does not use Pseudonyms in her blog. Her husband's name really is The Professor. Hence her married name Debbie Professor.
  3. Debbie and her husband are actually stranded time-travellers (from 1976, so it's not as exciting as coming from the future, but still), hence their enjoyment of the works of Jean M Auel and their frustrations with the show The Tudors.
  4. Debbie thinks it is ridiculous that even though pie with ice cream on top is called pie a la mode, no waitress yet has given her jelly when she orders toast a la Bama.

Four Unknown Facts about Excalibur Chicken:
  1. Excalibur Chicken was once plucked from a nest, thus proving that the plucker was destined to be king of nuggets at the fast food restaurant in which he worked.
  2. Excalibur Chicken once received transmissions from David Bowie's telescopic nipple antennae.
  3. Excalibur Chicken once met the Death of Rats.
  4. As is evident from the facts above, Excalibur Chicken does things once and once only.
You have been informed.
You have been informed.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Somali Economy and You

Ladies and Gentlemen, it seems every time we turn on the news or open the paper, we find another report of yet another naval incursion by Somali pirates. We shun Somalia; we question their lawlessness. In actuality, however, we should encourage Somalia. After all, the nation has been devastated by internal struggles since it gained its independence in 1960 (along with many other African nations). It's been plagued by one ineffectual government after another. In fact, Somalia's GNP is less than the net worth of at least eighty individuals on the face of the earth, including Bill Gates. That's right. Bill Gates could buy Somalia if he felt so inclined, and still have enough money left over to buy all of its neighbors. In fact, research shows that a large percentage of Somalia's money comes from Somali ex-patriots wiring money to friends and family in the motherland.

What does this have to do with pirates? Thank you for asking, hypothetical reader. With a sizable portion of Somalia's GNP coming from outside of the nation, the country clearly lacks for reliable exports with which to locally sustain its own economy. Somalia does have some agrarian capabilities--bananas are one of their major, one of their only for that matter, exports. These farms, however, provide only 40% of the nation's income. That's forty percent of 5.7 billion dollars, or roughly 2.28 billion dollars from these crops. Somali needed to explore new potential exports. As a coastal country, the fishing industry was a possibility and were it not for the incursion of foreign ships, may very well have been a lucrative one at that. However, being outfished by foreign nations, Somalia had to turn its eyes to the only other logical potential aquatic export: pirates.

Historically, England, France, Spain, China, even the U.S. (or the colonies, to be more accurate) to a lesser degree all possessed markets for pirates. It seemed a wise investment. They could start a pirate industry and sell their pirates to these other countries. Unfortunately for Somalia, the global demand for pirates has dwindled in recent centuries. Upon trying to export their pirates to other countries, Somalia often found foreign nations actively refusing to import the pirates, driving them away at the borders of their waters with large gunboats. Somalia, being thus discouraged, set out to prove the quality of their pirates as both a commodity and an investment.

Currently, Somali pirates control between ten and twenty foreign vessels and several hundred sailors with an average ransom of two million dollars. They're attempting to show the safe return on an investment in Somali Piratestm. After all, these pirates have secured over one billion dollars resale value of merchandise (20% of Somalia's GNP), which can then be resold, adding to a nation's exports, or these ships can be ransomed for a net gain of upwards of fifty million dollars! It's a remarkable return for one's investment in piracy, considering the costs of conducting piracy operations are considerably lower. It's a safer investment than the stock market! Further, cultivating a national pirate industry not only creates jobs and alternative export possibilities, it also promotes economic growth in related industries, such as ship and weapons manufacture, and adds hostages to a nation's list of profitable exports. It's a huge growth industry!

The international community is putting a lot of pressure on Somalia for its pirate industry, but really, we should admire them. They're a country that's truly looking outside the box during these hard economic times for unexplored, reliable means of generating income. Demand may be down for their products and services, but at least they're trying. Further, with the popularity of pirates in film and television growing, it's only a matter of time before demand also rises, which will increase the price for a good pirate. We, as a nation, should invest now before the price per pirate becomes unreasonable. We should encourage this sort of creative problem solving by demanding our senators push to help a struggling third world nation out by purchasing Somali Piratestm of our own. France and England can join suit and we can shake it up like the old days. After all, when was the last time we had a really good naval battle? Fifty, sixty years ago? Too long.

Invest in pirates. They'll turn this economy around.

You have been informed.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Science Outpaces Intelligence!

Ladies and Gentlemen, as we continue our effort to make up for lost time, I share with you this disturbing bit of news. For ages, man has feared that the pace at which science and technology grows exceeds the pace at which man's wisdom and intellect, man's ability to make ethical decisions grows. They thought we had reached the outpacing point when we developed the atomic bomb. We'd built a bomb that could level a city, but were we ready to wield that awesome power, to make the kinds of decisions needed to use those bombs responsibly? Instances like that really make us do a cost-benefit analysis on science and technology, but they pale in comparison to the gap between science and reason in this latest technological development. In the past, the question was "Are we morally ready for this innovation?"

Now the question is "Are we intelligent enough to invent this technology in the first place, let alone use it?"

The answer, in this case, is a resounding no. We have officially technologically outpaced ourselves.

I submit to you for your consideration the Big Dog robot.

We've built an advanced robot that looks and moves nothing like a dog and called it a Big Dog. We needn't ask if we're ready for such a robot. The answer is clearly no. These scientists evidently don't even know what dogs look like, and we let them build robots? If anything, it looks and sounds like a bug, and moves like a deer. If these scientists were intelligent and intellectually ready for an innovation like this, they would have named it the Big Bug Deer. But they called it the Big Dog.

And then they kicked it, so clearly they aren't ready for it. They weren't intelligent enough to name it properly, and then they kicked it, showing they clearly don't realize it's unethical to kick a dog, even if it is robotic. Not to sound like a Luddite or seem like I'm siding with Oliver Cromwell or anything, but I think it's time we put the kibosh on technological discovery until we can at least identify common animals and stop abusing robots. After all, robot abuse is always the first step toward robot enslavement/annihilation of humanity.

As further proof that robots are becoming increasingly self-aware, we have reference above to the robo-boogie and this video of robots dancing.

And we all know that according to my modified version of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, dancing is an essential step to self-actualization, the epitome of self-awareness.

Tread more cautiously, science. You're treading in dangerous waters that you aren't mentally ready for.

You have been informed.

10 Unknown Facts about Jeff Goldblum

Ladies and Gentlemen, catch-up continues. We've missed two Ten Facts Tuesdays, so here's your second Ten Facts list to make up for it.

This time, we'll focus our exploratory light on Jeff Goldblum. He acts a lot. He used to sell Macs. He is my almost sister-in-law's not so secret celebrity crush. We all know who he is. Here's a little you probably didn't know about him.

10 Unknown Facts about Jeff Goldblum:
  1. Jeff Goldblum actually has two stomachs so that even his digestive system can keep kosher.
  2. Jeff Goldblum is, according to classified government documents, America's first line of defense against extra-terrestrials.
  3. Jeff Goldblum is immune to the germs that cause the gum disease Gingivitis. Hence, he does not need Listerine.
  4. Jeff Goldblum has catlike balance, and as such, always lands on his feet unless you drop him many times upside down and then drop him right side up, at which point, habit and expectation will cause him to fall awkwardly just like the rest of us.
  5. Jeff Goldblum can make the tastiest pork chops you've ever had in your life. He won't, because he's orthodox Jewish, but he could if he wanted to.
  6. Jeff Goldblum likes Lucy a lot and respects her, and he would like it if they could still be friends, but he just doesn't love Lucy anymore.
  7. Jeff Goldblum trains every day for the zombie apocalypse.
  8. Jeff Goldblum is the modern day incarnation of Spring Heeled Jack.
  9. Jeff Goldblum isn't allergic to dogs, but he is allergic to the word dog, often leading to confusion on the subject.
  10. Jeff Goldblum has an XBox live achievement named after him called Jeff Goldblum, which so far, only he has earned. The requirements needed to earn are that the person must score 10,000 points for a single trick on Tony Hawk's Underground and be Jeff Goldblum.
You have been informed.

10 Unknown Facts about Dave Arneson

Ladies and Gentlemen, wow what a hiatus that I didn't mean to take. The day of my last post two weeks ago, I found out Dave Arneson, co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons died, and I wanted to do a tribute that wasn't just a ten unknown facts list. I couldn't think of anything, but I wanted that to be my next post. Time passed. I still couldn't think of anything. Then I got caught up in job interviews and wedding plans and work and writing (I've started a novel) and so many other things. So today, two weeks later, I say enough is enough. It's time I get this truth train back on track with something I didn't want to do but if I had, I'd have never derailed in the Andes in the first place...

So, to start my big game of catch-up...

10 Unknown Facts about Dave Arneson:
  1. Dave Arneson was once a member of Flight of the Conchords, but his fear of heights made the band's name hypothetically terrifying and he was forced to quit for anxiety reasons.
  2. Dave Arneson taught John Constantine everything he knows about doing magic and making tea.
  3. Dave Arneson could make eggless quiche.
  4. Dave Arneson was the first Settler of Catan.
  5. It is grammatically correct for DaVe aRNEsON to capitalize any letters in his name that he pleases.
  6. Dave Arneson once genetically crossed a bee and dog so when they played fetch, if the stick accidentally landed on the roof, the dog could get it. Plus, Dog Honey is super tastey. Plus, it was just super adorable.
  7. During the Cold War, Dave Arneson was on the side of Luke Warm.
  8. Dave Arneson was genetically incapable of being a jerk to anyone due to a mutation in his amygdala.
  9. Dave ARneson had an impressive chin bust collection, including busts of the chins of Jay Leno, Bruce Cambell, and Carl Sandberg--who didn't have an impressive chin himself but did write a poem about people with proud chins.
  10. Dave Arneson knew the secret ending to Lost, but took the secret to his grave (believe me, I tried to get it out of him).
It's not much. I wanted to do something more, but I couldn't think of anything, so here's a list for you, Dave. Thanks for helping to provide me with some of my favorite times growing up.

You have been informed.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Captured Populations

Ladies and Gentlemen, you may remember Hurricane Katrina from several years ago. New Orleans was all over the news after that, and so much money and so many volunteers poured into the city to help rebuild. Believe it or not, New Orleans was not the only place affected. Every coastal county in Mississippi took heavy damage with extensive flooding and a 27 foot storm surge that moved upwards of twelve miles inland. Even now, almost four years later, driving along the beach, the devastation is blatantly obvious. Rebuilding is slow, and takes a lot of money. We only recently had the last of our destroyed bridges replaced. Still, many places have a lot of work left to do. One city, Bay St. Louis, has found a creative way to help rebuild.

The first thing one needs to understand in the rebuilding process is that it takes a lot of money, often tax money to rebuild and jumpstart a destroyed community. Unfortunately, a number of people who fled from Katrina didn't return. Their homes were gone. Their jobs were gone. There was little to pull them back to the coast. There was little to return to, for that matter. The price of homes skyrocketed because there were so few that came through unharmed, and those who had them didn't want to part with them. Of course, no returning constituents means a loss of tax dollars. Bay St. Louis found a unique solution to the problem.


I went to drop off a job application at a school there and found myself taking the scenic route through the entire town as one detour led me into another. There were no fewer than five major road construction projects and that's just what I saw. How does all of this boost populations? As I drove in, I was thwarted by half a dozen detours just getting to the school. I was frustrated, but not deterred. It was only when I attempted to leave that I saw the true evil genius behind their plan. My detour led me to another, which led me to another, which led be back to the beginning. You see, there is a single lane leading into the general vicinity of the school, but all roads leading out are detoured. I was stuck in a vicious, inescapable circle that ran me past dozens of quaint little homes for sale.

It's the perfect plan, really. Ensure that those who enter the city can never leave. Then, when their cars run out of gas, direct them to the lovely three bedroom two bath with a nice lawn their car died in front of. Maybe they'd like to tour it. Take out a loan. Settle down. Have some kids. Pay some taxes. Only then will they tell the new resident of the secret route out of town. By that point, however, it's too late. The poor victim is settled. They don't want to navigate a moving van down through those construction zones and they certainly don't want to sell a house in this market.

I wouldn't be fooled by them, oh no. We cheated. We used parking lots, alleys, and quick trips down one way streets to make our escape. I know what happens in picturesque towns you can't escape from. Housewives butcher people and serve them for dinner. Librarians sprout Cthulhu tentacles and keep their husbands locked in the basement in bondage gear. If not that, it's haunted by ghosts seeking revenge for some age old offence, and that sounds equally unpleasant. No thank you. I made my exit post haste, and informed my fiancee that if I did get that job, she'd have to move there, because they'd never let me escape the same way twice. I'd never find my way out again.

So consider yourself warned. Beware of small, quaint little towns that try to make you detour. It's a trap. It's always a trap. Turn around. Drive backwards down one way streets. Get out of your car and run if you must. But whatever you do, do not do not do not be tempted to buy a house when your car runs out of gas.

You have been informed.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

10 Unknown Facts about Professional Writers

Ladies and Gentlemen, I just finished writing a short story whose concept I really love, but the prose doesn't really do it any justice. Such is the story of my life. Ever since I was a little kid, I've wanted to be a writer. I'm sure that isn't hard to believe considering how many Ten Facts Tuesdays I've done about writers (Wil Wheaton, Philip K. Dick, and Jim Butcher just to name a few). I almost did today's on Isaac Asimov, in part because of my secret desire that I can one day get something published in Analog. Don't get me wrong, his work is great, but I just finished writing something and I would like to see it published if I can ever get a solid draft out of it, so my mind is more on the magazine than the man right now. Regardless, I decided rather than share ten facts about another author this week, I would share ten facts about authors in general so that maybe you guys can get a glimmer of an idea why I want to be a writer, a professional writer, so very very much.

Ten Unknown Facts about Professional Writers
  1. Professional writers are allowed to eat their dessert first if they like.
  2. Professional writers can rewrite anything, even personal histories.
  3. Professional writers are sixteen times more likely to earn an Eagle Talon High Five than non writers. 
  4. Professional writers are all members of a super secret club like freemasonry only fun where they can go and hang out and watch TV and play games with other writers whenever they want. (When they're not under deadlines from their editors, that is)
  5. Professional writers all have magic plates that hold 36% more food at buffets, meaning they have to make fewer trips down the crowded food lines.
  6. Professional writers get DVRs that program themselves. Yup. It automatically knows they want to watch Lost.
  7. Professional writers have access to a super secret formula of Diet Doctor Pepper that tastes even more like regular Doctor Pepper.
  8. Professional writers' cars on average get an extra three miles to the gallon. 
  9. Professional writers get into all the cons they want for free.
  10. Professional writers can buy their eggs for seven cents apiece in Malta and sell them for five cents apiece and still make a profit.
Just so you know. Sure there are other benefits, like getting paid to share your ideas and your creations with the world, in knowing what you do makes other people happy. And yes, there are drawbacks. Deadlines. Pressure. Rewrites. The unpredictable nature of the work, the unreliability of the paychecks. Even so, it's always something I've wanted to do. Those ten perks> That's just icing on the cake.

You have been informed.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Memories of Murder

Ladies and Gentlemen, I don't know about you, but I really enjoy the TV show Law and Order, especially the original before there were a dozen law and order shows. However, something always struck me as odd when I watched the show. How were these gas station attendants and department store clerks always able to remember this one specific person a month or so later? They see hundreds if not thousands of people a day. By the time the police get to them, they've seen 10,000 customers or more, and yet they always have some vivid, but trivial memory of that person.

"Oh yeah, I remember her. She came in here and bought two tv dinners three weeks ago. One meatloaf and one macaroni. She paid with a five. I gave her two dollars and seventy-six cents back. Yeah, I remember her."

I can't dismiss this as bad fiction writing because everyone knows the show is based on real cases and real events. This leads me to one of two conclusions:
  1. Working minimum wage cashier jobs helps develop memory recall in people.
  2. When someone is about to die, those around them, particularly cashiers because they don't have to use as much of their brains at work so they develop psychic powers (as was proven in the book/movie Matilda), can sense it and though they can't identify what it is about this person, they know they should remember them.
Now, both I and my fiancee have worked our share of minimum wage jobs and we are both really absent minded. This, I feel, rules out the first conclusion regarding improved memory recall. Therefore, the latter conclusion must be true. Thus, to help the police and help save lives, if you work a minimum wage job and remember a customer the next day, chances are they've been murdered or will be murdered and you should phone the police with what you know immediately.

You have been informed.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Cruel and Unusual Punishments

Ladies and Gentlemen, it's no secret that the U.S. is holding a number of detainees in the war on terror. Note, these are detainees, mind you, not prisoners. Prisoners are tried and convicted individuals who, according to various treaties and conventions, must be treated in certain ways. As detainees, however, we are not subject to rules against cruel and unusual punishments. I believe that the U.S. is doing a fantastic job in this instance of providing a punishment that suits the unspecified crimes. And what is this punishment, you may ask. What are we using to extract our national revenge> Irony.

These detainees, who fought so hard to destroy our American way of excess and privilege, are forced to endure the same cruel privilege and excess that they railed against. That's right. These terrorists and enemy combatants who feel at home in the rigors of third-world poverty are forced to endure not two, but three, three culturally appropriate square meals a day! Oh they shame they would suffer if those at home were to learn of this. And two of these meals are hot!  From what I understand they actually must suffer the indecision Americans feel every day when bombarded by an excess of choice. The poor men at each meal must choose between four meal options! Even after a lifetime of practice at navigating the culinary world of privilege have difficultly. It's cruel and wrong to force these individuals to make such unaccustomed decisions before they can eat! We don't force other prisoners to do 1,000 push-ups or beat a super computer in a game of chess before being served, so how do we morally justify making these men, men who've had no practice at choosing what to eat, decide before we give them food> Even more cruel is that these meals are in excess of 4,000 calories! We're forcing obesity, America's epidemic of excessive comfort and wealth, upon them.

They're required to endure the horrors of hot running water. Further, these detainees can't even take pride in finding their own means to keep their government supplied holy Koran off of the floor. We give them a sling to keep it from touching the ground and then paint arrows on the floor pointing the way to Mecca. I understand this is essentially a prison without all of the Geneva Convention restrictions, but really. Must we leave these detainees with no problems to surmount so that they can hold their heads high and call themselves men> They do not need to use the stars to determine directional orientation, so that they may use their wits to prove their devotion to Allah. Likewise, they do not need to improvise clever devices from their clothing to keep their sacred scripture sacredly off of the floor. 

They need not ever exert themselves. They do not need to think too hard or work to hard. They are being turned physically and mentally into sheep, with the government giving them all of the answers they will need, telling them where they should go and what they should do, depriving them of the need to think, to reason, to earn their place in the world, to question and problem solve. They are given access to legal council and are allowed to speak on their own defense. They do not need to do an honest day's work to provide their luxury, and thus can take no true pride in what they have. They are forced to eat themselves to death with fatty foods and oversized portions the way so many of us do every day. Their punishment is the most sick and twisted I have ever seen. These men who have fought so hard to bring down the American lifestyle are forced to endure the most ironic punishment man could devise. They are forced to live like Americans. 

Geneva needs to put a stop to this sick and twisted mind game. 

You have been informed.

The Truth Is...

Ladies and Gentlemen, I couldn't resist. I had a little April Fools fun with you yesterday. I'm sorry to betray your trust, but I figured you'd probably get the joke anyway. Clearly what I said about Oprah was a joke. She doesn't eat cereal and coffee for breakfast. She dines on the crushed souls of emasculated men.

But she really is building a rocket. Oh yes. She really is building a rocket.

You have been informed.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Tiny Brains, My Foot!

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is going to be a quick one because, honestly, you'll enjoy looking at the evidence more than hearing me going on and on about it. So here's your truth:

Dinosaurs didn't die out. On top of that, their brains evolved. They are no longer the creatures of pure hunger, rage, and instinct. Rather, they are fond of standing around and having deep discussions of philosophical, literary, and scientific natures. You can see the proof here.

Also, I hear rumor that Oprah Winfrey, my living nemesis, was looking over schematics for rockets--rockets that we all know have to do with her plans for intergalactic domination--while having her morning breakfast of cereal and coffee.

You have been informed.