Category Archives: Random

Tazer Man!

The following is best read in a voice akin to that of Don “The Voice of God” LaFontaine:

IN A WORLD where people have forgotten their manners, made deaf to their fellow citizens by ipods sprouting from their heads, apathetic to those around them: one man stands alone, willing to fight for truth, justice, and the social contract. Impoliteness is his enemy, and his weapon is 24,000 volts of pure blue truth. Mild-mannered electrical engineer by day, by mid to late evenings he roams the streets of Boston, seeking vengeance on those who are unaware of the fact that they are not the only people on the planet. He is… Tazer Man!

A man at the mall stops right at the top of the escalator, deciding that would be a good place to continue his cell phone conversation, clueless to the people piling up behind him. Zap! Man down! He won’t need to charge that cell phone for another week. Thanks, Tazer Man!

It’s rush hour. A group of three teenage girls are gossiping cluelessly in the doorway of the Red Line subway, oblivious to the passengers trying to push by them before the door closes. Zap, zap, zap! No, he does not dial down the voltage for the young! “The younger they are, the more they gotta learn,” is Tazer Man’s motto.

A stock broker in a BMW sees the “left lane closed” sign, but does he merge? No, he drives past half a mile of people who don’t think they’re above everybody else, and cuts somebody off right at the last minute. He thought he got away with it. Maybe the last hundred other times, but not this time. Not today. Today he cut off the wrong guy. BMW guy doesn’t know that there is a complete electrical circuit between the metal interior door handle of a 2002 BMW 330Ci coupe and the chassis ground. But you know who does? Tazer Man does! ZZZZZap! Now two people know. Good thing leather cleans up well.

A twentysomething rides by on a skateboard. He stops at the front door of a bank, and quickly slaps a sticker on the side of the building, advertising his band “Shades of Moon.” Tazey has a special setting on his ‘gun’ for people like this. It’s called “Nobody cares about your stupid emo band so quit defacing public property with your infantile self-promotion.” Just kidding. That would never fit. It’s just called “High.”

When a broken social code has seemingly left us with no consequences for asocial behavior, Tazer Man is here to show us that there is a price to pay, and that price is 45 seconds of pain and possibly momentary incontinence. So the next time you are in public, remember your manners. And if you ever forget them, you may hear the faint whining hum of an electrolytic capacitor charging. That’s the sound of justice brewing, and it’s the last thing you’ll remember for about two and a half minutes.

Another reason to keep my degree from the University of Colorado a secret

It’s not so much that people at CU smoked pot, skied and climbed rocks, or that I have a problem with any of these activities in and of themselves, it’s just that from what I could tell, that’s pretty much ALL many of them ever did, professors included. While the grad students were, in some cases, the smartest people I’ve ever met, half-heartedly attending the school seemed to just be a way for people with a modicum of self-respect to legitimize what would otherwise be a lifestyle more commonly experienced by people living out of VW vans in the parking lot of the local tobacco accessories store. So it is with bittersweet nostalgia that I read a recent Daily Camera article about the annual 4/20 celebration on campus. A choice excerpt:

CU freshman Emily Benson, 19, of Kansas City, said she thinks the decriminalization of marijuana will become a hot topic in the upcoming political season and said she felt part of something bigger than just a smoke-out on Sunday.

“We’re at the starting point of a movement,” she said. “This is a big part of the reason I applied here — for the weed atmosphere.”

Although CU junior Max Lichtenstein, 21, isn’t into marijuana or smoking, he also felt Sunday’s event was a chance to do something “bigger” than himself. He passed out 126 Rice Krispies treats with messages attached asking that they act out against the injustices in Darfur…

“I just like being generous and doing nice things,” he said. “I’m like a good Samaritan.”

I should have known public image would be a problem when I found out that the school slogan was “Minds to Match our Mountains.” Publicly comparing their students’ brains to a mass of granite really makes one wonder if the administration knows what they’re doing. So does the fact that the last three major publicity events I’ve read about the school have been this story, hookers for the football team, and campus riots over beer policy. Thanks, CU, for continuing to ensure my degree continues to be so valuable in the market. Maybe your slogan should be “Minds to match the font size you’ll want to use to mention our school in your resume.” After this article, I’m down to 7 pt Helvetica, placed with an asterisk down at the bottom of the page.

Dammit Campbells, what am I missing?

“Mmm, mmm, Campbell’s Soup–Possibilities.” That infernal commercials jingo has infected my mind and torments my soul. There is nowhere I can hide from its taunting refrain, nothing I can do to stop it from springing forth into my consciousness, uninvited, mocking me. Soup. Possibilities.

What the bloody hell am I missing? For years I’ve just been following a simple recipe when it comes to soup: Open can. Poor contents into pot. Heat. Consume. No matter how many times I go through the numbers in my head, I can’t come up with anything other than pouring it into a receptacle and eating it. What are these possibilities? Are they still talking food, or other stuff? Is there something kinky you can do with Clam Chowder that everybody knows but me? Is that why the lady in the commercial winks at the end?

“Why I let my 9-year-old ride the subway alone”

One of the things I admire about my friends Ken, Scott and Dom is that they all seem to be the kind of balanced people who will raise kids who will be sensitive and thoughful, yet also not neurotic or afraid of taking risks. I don’t know if that’s as rare as I fear it is, but based on my informal children-i-see-wearing-helmets-for-activities-not-remotely-requiring-head-protection index, I’d say it might be. Obessing about safety and an abundance of precaution are not hallmarks of successful people, and I wonder if many companies are started by people who, as children, were hovered over by over-protective parents. I therefore enjoyed this story about an NYC women who indulged her 9-year-old son’s wish to be left alone in downtown NY to find his way home. From the article:

Anyway, for weeks my boy had been begging for me to please leave him somewhere, anywhere, and let him try to figure out how to get home on his own. So on that sunny Sunday I gave him a subway map, a MetroCard, a $20 bill, and several quarters, just in case he had to make a call.

No, I did not give him a cell phone. Didn’t want to lose it. And no, I didn’t trail him, like a mommy private eye. I trusted him to figure out that he should take the Lexington Avenue subway down, and the 34th Street crosstown bus home. If he couldn’t do that, I trusted him to ask a stranger. And then I even trusted that stranger not to think, “Gee, I was about to catch my train home, but now I think I’ll abduct this adorable child instead.”

Long story short: My son got home, ecstatic with independence.

If I had to guess, I’d say that in 20 years this kid will be doing something interesting with his life. Perhaps providing employment to the grown children of more obsessive parents. I hope he appreciates what a wonderful mother he has.

A father and son talk politics

From a recent instant message chat with my father. I don’t know why I find this amusing. I think it’s how it ends. The only background you need to know, to protect the innocent, is that my father is a life long Democrat. He tried to raise me right, so don’t hold him accountable for me.

me: well, one of the advantages is that you don’t have to insure your employees if you’re below a certain size.
everybody just gets major medical.
on their own.
rbirge322: and that costs an arm and a leg4:59 PM me: it’s not that bad.i had to get it for a few months when i was between colorlink and schoolrbirge322: it is if you are trying to get if for a family with an existing major medical conditionrbirge322: if almost cleaned Pop out5:00 PM me: one of the reasons i think we probably should get universal health care even though i’m a libertarian.rbirge322: and he never, ever complained to anyone- just sold his assets to keep Mom going5:01 PM me: why didn’t she have insurance before her medical problems?rbirge322: She did but through Hudson’s Bay, which was terminated when he left (forced out)5:03 PM me: did he not get her set up with another insurance quickly enough?5:04 PM rbirge322: yes, the democrats are rightme: shit. that sucks.but i have to admit, this health insurance thing is a bear of a problem.5:05 PM the democrats may eliminate problems like granny had, but they may very well bankrupt our country with the expense of having the government do it.me: the republicans will probably leave a few million without insurance, but maybe we’ll have enough money left over to have fun on the weekends.
5:13 PM me: it’s pretty sad when a libertarian is turned into a democrat.
probably the sign the end of our empire is near.
5:15 PM rbirge322: The empire has been in serious decline since Bush took office, and he has essentially done us in. History will long remember his contributions to our decline.
5:21 PM me: hell, we were in decline long before that, or at least the fix was in long before that.
like all empires, we got too soft, and that’s been happening a long time.
since the 60s, at least.
in some ways, WWII was the worst thing that happened to us. it made life too easy for us.
5:22 PM rbirge322: we sure were great duing WWII. Thats when this country reached its Zenith.
5:25 PM me: yup. sad that the top is always the beginning of the slide down.
dynamics are so depressing.
5:26 PM makes you just want to sit around in your underwear and watch “Midway”
rbirge322: things always go in cycles, so perhaps in the not too distant future we will start back up again
me: how’s that cycle going for the romans? 🙂
rbirge322: Midway is one of my favorite movies

Interesting story on high-stakes ship salvage


Photo courtesy of the US Coast Guard.

In the absence of anything interesting I can think of to write about the few things I understand, and an inability to write intelligently about the interesting things that are actually happening (e.g. the present collapse of our financial system), I am not above just jangling a shiny object that I found on the internet. In the previous issue of Wired magazine, there is a fascinating story about the people you call when your multimillion dollar ship full of 100 million of dollars worth of brand new cars nearly capsizes and is drifting helplessly into the coast of Alaska. I was deeply disappointed to find out that applied physics computational modeling is not the most manly occupation out there, as I’d been heretofore led to believe.

A brief excerpt:

In the crew’s quarters below the bridge, Saw “Lucky” Kyin, the ship’s 41-year-old Burmese steward, rinses off in the common shower. The ship rolls underneath his feet. He’s been at sea for long stretches of the past six years. In his experience, when a ship rolls to one side, it generally rolls right back the other way.

This time it doesn’t. Instead, the tilt increases. For some reason, the starboard ballast tanks have failed to refill properly, and the ship has abruptly lost its balance. At the worst possible moment, a large swell hits the Cougar Ace and rolls the ship even farther to port. Objects begin to slide across the deck. They pick up momentum and crash against the port-side walls as the ship dips farther. Wedged naked in the shower stall, Kyin is confronted by an undeniable fact: The Cougar Ace is capsizing.