All posts by Thunderscreech

Track injustice

In elementary school, I was part of track. I wasn’t very fast or good, but I tried my darndest because it was something to do and it was a bunch of the physical activity I got.

At a trackmeet, I was in a 50 yard dash and I was in the far-right lane. The starter pistol fired, and we were off! The other runners pulled ahead because they were faster but I was still running as fast as I could. The crowd was packed up against the side of the track in a wall.

Then, disaster that I still think of 30 years later. As the main wave of runners passed, someone stepped out into the track to get a better view of them.

Stepped out in front of me.

I skidded to a stop so I wouldn’t run into them, defeated, then slouched off in embarrassment. The person who stepped in front of me didn’t even notice and I felt so bad about not being fast that I thought I was the offender.

Today, I wish I’d braced myself and just smashed right into that goddamn oblivious crowd-member. Just… BOOM. I still wouldn’t have won, but I wouldn’t be sitting here more than a quarter century later thinking about this little injustice against a kid who wasn’t very physical but was trying his goddamndest to get into better shape and turn things around.

I quit track that day.

Inductive Reasoning

Everyone knows that intersections commonly have field sensors embedded in the asphalt to detect vehicles so they can control the traffic lights, right?


I’m basing this off some inductive reasoning because about ten of my fellow motorists and I were held hostage this morning for several minutes by someone ‘giving the intersection some space’.

Did they face some existential crisis when the light failed to recognize their presence? Or did the mental hate rays (and occasional horn) convince them that no, it was the UNIVERSE that was wrong? Did they shake their head at “yet another intersection that just doesn’t like them”?

If everywhere you go smells like poo, check your shoes. If every intersection ignores your presence, maybe it’s not the intersections that are broken.

Now, I realize none of YOU would ever do this and you’re all amazing drivers who know about induction loops and how they need a mass of iron or steel above them to trigger the sensor and all that, but if you could help your FRIENDS realize they’ve got to pull forward to the appropriate spot, that’d be greaaaaat. Your motorcycle friends (riders, that is. If you’re friends with a motorcycle, we should talk) already know because reasons, but even cars need to be within a freakin’ car length to make this work.

Meanwhile, this morning’s Mr. or Ms. Magoo continues to spread blood pressure spikes and upset drivers in their wake. I really thought I knew all the ways to make the world a little worse by now, but this morning I learned a new one.

Let your fingers do the plotting

A few weeks ago, a “Yellow Pages” suddenly appeared in front of my house. I know within 10 minutes of when it showed up because it wasn’t there when I went into the house, but when I came out… Boom, ancient relic.

Kanye West tweeted: “I hate when I’m on a flight and I wake up with a water bottle next to me like oh great now I gotta be responsible for this water bottle”. Deep down inside, I guess I’m like Kanye West, except with a phone book instead of a water bottle. Also, maybe not as talented or publicly ‘wacky’. Anyways, I didn’t sign up for this. I didn’t ask the world to be responsible for an outdated reference book that I’ll never use because it’s the year 2016 and I have the Internet. Deciding fast, I grab it and jump into my car. I know these books are distributed by someone driving through the neighborhood and throwing them. Like the Cylons, I have a plan.

I will give it back.

I will choose NOT to be saddled with this… burden. Driving, it’s easy to tell which houses have been hit by the phantom thrower. I glide quietly, my hybrid in “panther mode”, scanning back-and-forth. I’m trying to find a pattern. Am I heading towards them or just retracing the path that led them to my house? An old phonebook looks like a fresh one, there’s no way to tell.

I give up and decide to brute force the neighborhood.

I drive up and down every road, my head on a swivel. Every time I go through intersection, I do that thing we all do at supermarket when we’re looking for the person we came to the store with. A few times, I see something promising and look. Each time, it’s a false alarm and if there’s anyone in the car I’m checking out, they stare at me as I creep slowly past. What’s this LOOK like to them? Well, that’s a question that doesn’t occur to me until afterwards so I continue my mission, leaving a trail of freaked out helicopter parents and neighborhood watch enthusiasts in my wake.

About 15 minutes in, I finally realize this isn’t going to work. Either these people are way faster than I imagined, or we were the last house in the neighborhood. Maybe they’re halfway to Reno to blow their phonebook blood money on doing a gamblings or whatever it is physical spammers do with profits, I don’t know.

I give up. I tuck the phonebook in front of my seat and head back to the office.

A day or two later, my wife notices it on the floor of my car and asks what it’s doing there. I tell her, and she’s immediately practical. “Throw it away or put it in the recycling”, she tells me. “If your plan was to give it back and they’re gone, just get rid of it”.

This doesn’t sit well with me because I feel like then that means the world gets another victory over human decency. The kind of people who throw phonebooks at houses get a pass, and the rest of us need to deal with their anti-social behavior. It doesn’t seem quite right, like I’d would be giving up.

“Well, I was thinking”- I lie, having been doing no such thing, everything I’m about to tell her is occurring to me as I speak so nobody is more surprised than me when that sentence continues: “that maybe I’ll just wait until I see someone who’s parked terribly and maybe put the phonebook under their windshield wiper as some kind of silly, petty protest.”

Hearing it out loud, that actually doesn’t sound half bad. Out of the thousands of ways people have objected to antisocial parking over the centuries, this is a pretty inoffensive one. Yeah, I think maybe I could actually do this. It’ll be great!

Then I remember I’ve just been talking to someone, the level-headed practical bedrock in my life who keeps me together. I can sit here patting myself on the back all I want, but the woman whose opinion is important to me and whose judgment I trust would probably have some input on this grand scheme. I brace myself, this idea may not survive the cold light of logic and sense. These thoughts happen in a flash, she responds instantly.

“Then go get some more of those phonebooks from our neighbors”, she suggests reasonably, “there’s lots of bad parkers. If we’re going to do this, let’s do it right”.

Damnit, I love this woman so much.

NPO Energomash to re-brand RD-180

....and the rocket's red glare
NPO Energomash has begun experimenting with a technique to add colors signifying American patriotism to the exhaust flames so that each launch may serve as a reminder.

MOSCOW, Russia (AP) – NPO Energomash has announced that their successful Ракетный Двигатель-180 (known in the west as the RD-180) will be renamed the “Reagan-180”, freeing it from further threat of trade restrictions imposed by the United States.

“Some senators in the United States”, announced NPO spokesman Dmitri Moiseyevich, “have expressed concerns related to this reliable, mission-proven RD-180 engine. After careful consideration, we are proud to announce that this high-performance propulsion device shall now be known as the Reagan 180, named”, he added, “after the brave President and Actor respected by so many over… there.” He continued to note that a careful reading of attempted restrictions on the engines has revealed that the limitations on use for defense payloads is keyed off the name of the engine itself, not the country of origin.

“We are seeing in document”, Mr. Moiseyevich said, pointing at a printout of the latest defense spending legislation, “that specifically is calling out ‘RD-180’ and so we are asking selves: are we being too proud to change name?” Shaking his head emphatically, the spokesman assured gathered reporters this was not the case. “Absolutely not, and we have chosen your Ronald Reagan as the new name of the engine to honor this great statesman, not simply to give it a name that would make it politically impossible to ban.  Looking significantly into the crowd, he continued that “to suggest such a cynical strategy for defeating the wishes of, say, a respected war hero in your Congress is beyond mention.”

The Reagan-180 American Freedom is fueled by kerosene and liquid oxygen, and the NPO Energomash rep noted that from a statistical standpoint, every flight almost certainly uses at least some oxygen that had at one point been breathed by the founders of the United States of America. “Is propelled by freedom!” he enthused.

Wisdom in the larceny of youth

Many Earth years ago, one of my sons was 5 years old and made a color copy of a $1 bill (both sides), cut them out, and taped them together. As an added bonus, he wrote “20” on each corner with a green marker then tried to present it to me.

After telling him about counterfeiting and the various problems, I added that it wouldn’t even work because most people would look at it and know instantly it was counterfeit.

“But I don’t have to fool all the people,” he responded, “I just have to fool one person”.

That left me thinking for a while.