Monday, January 31, 2011

Meeting Media: The Place with the Zebras

Meeting Media are created during actual and very important meetings while I really was paying attention. Names or other identifying information, or inappropriate comments about my boss, have been blocked out to protect the illusion of innocence.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mike and Murphy Conquer the World

When I worked at the middle school, a student named Murphy expressed to me that he would like to pursue a robotics career someday, so I helped him along by recommending various universities and programs that he should investigate. We often discussed these things when I was on recess duty.

One such day, another student, Mike, told me in great detail about his brother’s plan to dominate the world (an intricate plot, involving the systematic takeover and subsequent nuking of one country after another).

“That’s stupid,” said Murphy. “It all hinges on his being a UN official in the first place.” (I’ll spare you those details.) “Where would he get that kind of power?”

“From the Canadians,” Mike said.

“I’m listening.”

“See, we’re convinced that they’re hiding some kind of super weapon around Ontario. How else do you explain a country that size with so few foreign disputes?”

“I’ve always suspected the Canadians. You’re right. They’re awfully quiet.”

“So we just have to get in and take it from them.”

There was silence for a minute or two as Murphy seemed to be contemplating the ramifications of disturbing the international super-power that is Canada. “Hmm. It lacks the simplicity and elegance of my plan.”

“We can’t all rely on robotics, Murph,” Mike said.

And they went quiet. I couldn’t let them stop there, so I prodded them along by asking, “How does your world domination plan go, Murphy?”

“Well, first I have to get into that university in Switzerland with the robotics program that Disney funds that you told me about. Eventually, I’ll be knowledgeable enough to create the ultimate household robot that can cook and clean and run simple errands. I’ll include some supposed flaws in the design – for instance, the robot will never lift more than 40 pounds, so people will think it’s unable to – so after a few years when there are at least 3 of my robots in every home and I flip the control switch that causes them to violate the laws of robotics, everyone will be really surprised at what they can do. I’m trying to figure out how I can have bullet-proof armor under their paneling without adversely affecting the weight… Anyway, so with the help of my robots we’ll eventually undermine America and all that it stands for. Once you’ve conquered America, I figure the rest of the world is all downhill. Then it’s time to colonize Antarctica and build my fortress. But I’ll have to find a new home for the penguins first. I’m all about the penguins.”

“If you take over Antarctica, there’s nowhere to move the penguins to!” Mike said.

“Um, duh, genius! The North Pole!” Murphy said.

“No way! Epic fail!”


“The polar bears would eat them!”

“Please, the polar bears are dying out.”

“And the same thing that’s killing them would kill the penguins!”

“Okay, fine. The penguins can stay. I’ll just have to make it illegal for anyone to live too close to Antarctica. Like, New Zealand, for instance. New Zealand would have to go.”



When the revolution comes, I know that he will remember what a great mentor I was and therefore my death will be swift and painless. I take great comfort in this.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Fantasy teaches us that good always triumphs over evil...

Even if the odds seem impossible.
The Lord of the Rings, by JRR Tolkien

For a given value of good and evil.
His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman

If you look at it philosophically.
The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis

No matter how many times it comes back.
The Final Fantasy series, by SquareEnix

So let’s all have cherries jubilee.
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, by Patricia C. Wrede

If you have the right dice.
Dungeons and Dragons

Because that’s what heroes are for.
The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle

Because it’s a million to one chance, so it might just work.
The Discworld Series, by Terry Pratchett

If you play your cards right.
Magic: The Gathering, CTCG

If everybody works together for it.
The Chronicles of Prydain, by Lloyd Alexander

But you might have to wait a long time for it.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, 1997
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, 2007

Even if you don’t live to see it.
Robert Jordan, 1948-2007, Author of the first 11 books of the Wheel of Time.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

No MSG! No Transfats! No Medicine Men!

On a trip to visit my mother in Oklahoma, we made the drive over to Tahlequah, capital of the Cherokee Nation and home of my alma matter, Northeastern State. Aside from all the happy memories of my college days, Tahlequah also offers an old-fashioned main street, full of unique restaurants and cute, artsy little shops. It was in one of these cute, artsy shops that I noticed the preponderance of cute, artsy things advertised as being handcrafted by “genuine Indian medicine men.”

Well, of course, people. I have, like, four of those in my immediate family. This is Oklahoma, “Land of the Red Man.” You can’t sneeze without getting blessed by a genuine Indian medicine man.

In Oklahoma, everyone’s an Indian. In grade school, on the playground, we all used to talk about how much Indian we were and what kind. Pasty redheads with freckles will tell you “I’m a quarter Cherokee and 3/16th Creek,” and they’ve got a little ID card from the US government to back up the claim. Hell, I’ve got one myself and I’m the palest pale person in three counties – I can’t fetch the mail without sunblock. Around here, if dad decides to dabble in reiki, suddenly he’s a genuine Indian medicine man, never mind that he put his new age on backwards.

You could get scuba instructions from a genuine Indian medicine man, have your computer fixed by a genuine Indian medicine man, get cut off in traffic by a genuine Indian medicine man.

That guy who fragged you three times in pvp last night? Yeah, medicine man. Suck it, noob.

Seriously? At this rate, it would be more interesting if anything wasn’t made by genuine Indian medicine men.
“This here, see, this is special. This was handcrafted by nobody of particular importance.”
“Can you feel the power?”
“Oh yeah. I feel it.”

Not that I’m decrying the idea of genuine Indian medicine men (grandpa might think I didn’t love him anymore!), I’m just wondering, why here? Are these artfully constructed dream catchers and prayer wands supposed to impress the hordes of tourists who are even now flocking to our windswept plains? Look, Tulsans, I love you and I love my hometown, but be honest with yourselves: how many times have you told your medicine men, “Man, I cannot wait for tourist season to be over. Would you LOOK at these lines? Tsk.” We have got to get our genuine Indian medicine junk a new outlet.

Let me explain: I recently moved back to the Midwest after an extended residency in Louisiana. There, everything was made by genuine voodoo priestesses. I even worked with some. (They often made goodies for the workroom.) Whenever I asked my coworkers about the genuine voodoo priestesses, they would yawn and shrug their shoulders. “Meh,” they said.

Over genuine voodoo priestesses?

Now that I’ve moved, I often have this conversation:
Adoring Stranger: “Oh my gosh! That purse! Where did you get it?”
Me, humbly and not at all smug about it: “You like? It was made by a genuine voodoo priestess!”
Excited and Envious Stranger, eyes a-glow: “Get out! Really?”
That’s the appropriate response right there! Not this yawning business.

What I'm trying to say is this stuff is only as fascinating as it is foreign.

Is the Land of the Red Man really the place to be peddling this lovely and spiritual merchandise when we could be making a killing off of it in, say, New England? Forget the lottery, my fellow Oklahomans, for before us is a vast, untapped, renewable, and exportable resource. Band with me: Find the genuine Indian medicine man in your life and put him to work.

“You can come out when you meet your quota, grandpa. I’ve got a man in Philly waiting on these. Hop to it and start whittling.”