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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Dog is God

First published on September 25, 2007

Last summer I got a dog. I wasn't planning on it, it just sort of happened. I had been thinking about a dog for years.

As a child, my father had gotten us one, while we were living in Algeria, his assignment as a technical engineer exchange program for the National Iranian Oil Company.

We lived in a beach-side residential area on the southern Mediterranean, and the puppy we got, Alfor, was very soon bitten by a wild dog roaming the sand dunes, rabid as it turned out, and after a week or so, Alfor showed up outside our house again, but with the telltale signs of foam at the mouth, dirty, bloody, exhausted, and unresponsive to our calls. So, my Dad called the Gendarmes to come out and shoot it. I can still hear the shots and the howling.

After our father's assignment was up, we returned to Iran, and lived there through the rest of Shah years, and part of the revolution, but we never mentioned getting another dog again. My brother, Kambiz and I had all but erased the bad experience of Alfor from our memories.

Last year though, as if by some per-ordained omnipotent act of a higher being exerting her decades dormant purpose on us, both Kambiz and I, unbeknownst to the other, without talking about it, at almost the same time, each of us, got a dog.

I say this hesitantly because, as a result, I am not so sure it was a choice after all.

One that either of us made entirely on our own.

We both have daughters, and as such have a connection to a life-force and being that is at once damning and darling. In my case the nagging to get a puppy had been going on for the past 5 years, and wasn't getting any less loud.

Meanwhile, as I got older, and naturally more cynical, my connection to and willingness to be guided by any sort of spiritual faith, had all but fizzled, thanks in great part to the greatest swindle in history, the best case for 0% proof of God, and 100% proof of irony, namely the Iranian "revolution".

So you could say I wasn't in any mental shape to become some sort of believer. Until this past summer.

Pressure by my daughter Sophie had been building steam since the beginning of summer. We had put off a vacation this year, having been to Italy the summer prior, so everyone wanted a bit of a break, and going to the local pool every day, and barbecuing dinner on the backyard patio, sounded simply great to us.

"Perfect time to get a dog, right Daddy?" Sophie said, in that way she talks to me whenever I am being sold something we probably don't need.

"We'll see." I would always say, trying to smile a wise Daddy smile, I don't ever seem to be able to pull off with any credibility.

We had driven past a farm for years which had the unobtrusive sign outside the wide driveway gate that said simply, "Border Collie Pups". Nothing. No reaction. Just another sign on just another winding road, traveled only occasionally to avoid the occasional accident on the freeway.

In June, as summer settled into a nice repetitive routine of hot day, warm night, I took Sophie for a ride. We like to ride in the car, talking and listening to her (not my) music, and I found us driving along the winding road, and instead of swinging past the farm with the puppy sign, I pulled in this time, quickly, and parked under a large oak tree, for the shade.

She looked at me, grinned a grin that had been carefully cultivated for 12 years, and quickly we both got out of the car and started walking towards the large white house at the end of large front open field yard, a graveyard, of dead soccer balls.

Almost immediately we were greeted by individual adult Border Collies of every shade and size. I will call these "The Apostles and Saints". Because each had a different character and seeming message.

One speckled grey and orange male ran up to sniff us excitedly with a toothy grin, dripping tongue hanging out the side of his mouth, as if to say, "Enjoy Life, because I sure am!", and then took off into the field to follow some other scent.

A tri-colored black, white and tan, walked around us eying us cautiously, just barely out of our reach, and as if to say, "Why are you here? You don't believe."

A black and white with wild flashing eyes and half a soccer ball in his mouth, trotted in a circle around us then dropped the ball promptly at our feet. "Pick it up" he seemed to say. I picked up the ball. "Toss it to me." he said. I tossed the saliva soaked ball at him. He immediately bumped it with his snout right back into my surprised waiting hands.

A big wide crazy grin now matched his crazy eyes. "Toss, and you shall receive." he said, as he took his ball and ran off into the field.

A sweet grey female with one blue eye the other brown, walked serenely up to my daughter and nuzzled her snout in the open innocent hands of the 12 year old girl, who cradled her head gently. Serenity.

Around us the rest of the 12 dogs, yes I counted twice, 12, spun about, some eager and jumping up on us, some timid, watching with clear doubt and debate in the distance. The entire farm a teeming Tibetan temple of blissful, China-free, care-free, canine monks.

As we approached the house, we could see the large garage-barn to the right of it, the garage door, open about a foot off the ground. From under the door, we could see small furry knees and paws scurrying back and forth like a kindergarten play, in and out of the shade of the hot summer sunlight.

Suddenly, two furry heads peeked out from under the door, and a black and white and brown and white trotted confidently up to us, sniffed at us with mild interest and began to stumble towards the action that was fast developing among the older dogs in full run, in the field.

As they tried to keep up with the larger dogs, the pups would occasionally get trodden upon, and would fall head first into the dirt, get up, shake their dusty heads, and continue to try to get in the game once again. With the same result.

Little did I know that this was in fact, precisely their trick. The pups, especially that brown and white one, implied and taunted us to dare to protect and care for them.

It was after all, entirely in our power and choice, to prevent them from being trampled. To care.

I was of course, averse to such trickery, having once debated an actual Mollah after the revolution, in Iran, head on. I pitched my reasonably well argued position that Mohammad's premise of Eslam was nothing more than a grand scam of the combined iconology of the world's other religions and folklore that he had cleverly accumulated, in his travels as the foreman of his wife's caravans. He had perfected each one's weaknesses, and repackaged it for the yearning of Arab consumption.

Prayer was merely calisthenics, to deliver a healthy body along with the soul, to Allah. Not eating pork a mere sign of the trichinotic times. Condemning the Dog as haram, the very proof of the fallibility and insecurity of the God argument.

So now, here on this farm, I would not be fooled by such an obvious display of the Godhead ponzi-scheme, certainly not by no dirty dusty dogs!

And so, before Sophie was lost forever to the dark side, I quickly keeshed and korralled her and we got in the car and left. As I drove out of the farm, I found myself breathing hard. "Must have been a bit of a hill climb to the car." I told myself.

Days later, I found myself thinking of the farm again and again. The faces and expressions of the dogs and pups haunting me as I tried to move about my day.

Over the coming week, Sophie and I made 3 more "pilgrimages" to the farm, trying to push aside the persistent apostles and saints, who dutifully preached the same cute sermons to us each time, as we parked and walked to the garage to see the pups who kept growing cuter with each visit.

The brown and white consistently drawing us in closer and closer, as if for a merciful snare and kill, we now longed for. Or maybe, it was just me that longed to be caught and put out of my misery.

On one of the final visits, the brown and white came up to us, and suddenly shifted and rubbed it's fuzzy head against my shin. A bow and slightest tap of her cold button-nosed snout sent an electric shock through my flip flop clad toes.

Painfully I reached down and held the round soft head in my hand, and she looked up slowly, and seemed to say, "I know. You didn't think it could happen to you. But it's OK, it's been a long time, and don't worry, we're going to be all right."

Suddenly scared, I pulled my hand back quickly, and let Sophie chase after the now scampering puppy into the yard. My heart was pounding in my chest again, and my head was now spinning ever so slightly. This time too, I blamed it on the hill-climb once again, plus a hot mid-day sun. As if not by choice, I Hajj'd my way to the house to knock on the porch screen-door.

A grey-streaked-haired woman of about sixty appeared with a twinkling blue-eyed smile.

"Howdy!" She said, with a trademark typical farm-like manner. For a minute, I swore I could smell fried chicken, fresh corn, buttermilk biscuits, 'n' gravy. Maybe even some fresh shelled peas! Please?

"I see you've met the puppies!" she said with a knowing smile.

"How much?" I asked.

And that's pretty much how I came to believe in Dog.

Confessions of a former Conservative Republican...

First published on September 13, 2007
Until recently, I was a conservative Republican.

[I'm waiting for your laughter to die down]

Done? (kooft!)

Many Iranians when learning I was a Republican would say crazy shit like, "How could you vote for George Bush?" They thought that if you join a party you necessarily have to blindly vote for the party's candidate.

After I explained to my bisavad brethren the way voting actually works, I would continue to say that actually since I joined, I have never voted for a single Republican candidate. Including Reagan. Why?

Quite simply because like most Independents, Democrats, Greens, and Libertarians, I never thought that the Republican candidate was either qualified, nor possessed the personality for the job.

You see I am- I mean was, a Lincoln Republican. You remember Lincoln don't you. He was the one who freed the slaves.

I always thought that less government and taxes, was better than more, that a conservative approach, meaning, let's think about things and their consequences before we act rashly, was better and cheaper than, let's try a bunch of government programs, then raise taxes and see what happens.

I have always been pro-choice, because I thought that to simply make abortion illegal is actually a radical liberal idea whose impact was unproven. Changing something before you know what will happen is not conservative. It's liberal. doing it out of passion or faith, radical.

I don't buy that welfare as it now exists, works, but I don't support privatizing every single thing either. I like to think about it and discuss it good and hard first. That's conservative. Safe. Cheap or fiscally responosible.

So was my opinion of the beginning of the war. I supported the US removing Saddam. Only because the US put and kept Saddam in power unreasonably, and it made sense for those responsible to clean up their mess. That's conservative. You screw up? You fix it. Like everyone else, I never thought we'd be here.

Funny that those who claim to be conservatives, even neo-conservatives, are far from my definition. They exhibit and push their radical ideas, and implement them liberally without forethought.

Then they took over the Republican party. I attended the usual meetings as a party member, and each time as I voiced opposition to the radically liberal and unproven theories and ideas and policies the party seemed to be supporting, I noted that my voice was being less and less heard. Eventually I was shunned, and encouraged to leave these meetings, if I refused to accept their answers.

So now, like most Iranians, I find myself at a real quandary. The Republicans are dominated by religious fundamentalist, idealogue, hypocrites. So that won't work. The Democrats are run by naive, idea and spine less sellouts, whose only goal is to settle political grudges started by Newt Gingrich, and unseat any Republican they can at every turn. The Green party is hilariously principled. And the Libertarians are so hands off, you sort of get the feeling that they just don't care about anything, really.

So, I end up in the undecided majority, or the Independent ranks. We don't get to caucus, we don't get primaries, and we certainly don't get any attention from the candidates.

I will miss the bitching about the stupidity of US foreign policy in the Middle East and how the heads of my fellow Republicans looked as if they would explode, as I proved it to them with facts and history.

But at least I can still vote. Wait, Independents can vote right?

Technically speaking, war is actually obsolete

First published on August 29, 2007

Recently the administration seems to be on a strange “come clean“ kick. President Bush has finally admitted that the execution of the war has not been “perfect”, and some “mistakes were made”. Almost chuckling.

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, finally admitted that “thousands of tactical mistakes” have been made in Iraq.

Meanwhile, military legal scholars from Gitmo to Abu Ghraib are still trying to re-interpret abstract and obscure legal definitions of what exactly an enemy combatant is, and how to get around the Geneva convention and that whole military uniform loophole.

While all this sounds like a big waste of time, and even if it is, the one thing I think that everyone is missing is that war, the technical execution of it mind you, the whole mobilizing of a large group of unruly sweaty men and their wasteful, polluting, loud, military equipment and support staff, to subdue and essentially kill an unknown number of possible adversaries, and win the favor and support of an unwillingly occupied nation of poor brown people, is as I suppose, entirely obsolete.

To be obsolete means, out of date, outmoded, old-fashioned, démodé, passé, out of fashion; no longer in use, disused, fallen into disuse, behind the times, superannuated, outworn, antiquated, antediluvian, anachronistic, discontinued, old, dated, archaic, ancient, fossilized, extinct, defunct, dead, bygone, out.

Why is war obsolete? Simply because ever since Korea, I mean the 1950's Korean war, war has failed to achieve a single positive result. Primarily because those shooting back these days don't seem to be willing to play by the certain necessarily pre-supposed rules of war. The military, it seems, still thinks that war has rules. Even these days. The military does not appear to want to learn from the very history it studies so passionately at its holy "academies of war".

The assumption that in the modern era, any modern army would actually risk wearing uniforms and march in a straight line, isn’t ludicrous, it’s positively retarded. Something ironically, the American revolutionary war forefathers knew well.

The US military in Iraq seems continually stunned that the insurgency is able to continue day after day. They even appear incredulous and insulted that the insurgents use IED's, car bombs and the like, to fight back. They continue to try and fight them with outdated, excuse me, obsoletely asinine rules of engagement. 

Apparently US soldiers in Iraq cannot fire first, unless this and this, then that and that happens. Out of 180,000 troops in Iraq less than 20% are what we would call actual soldiers. The rest are support personnel, for latrines, food, IT services, God knows ATM machines, and those cool bottled water dispensers, you know, “logistics”. Something you would see a Quartermaster for.

This isn’t a war, this is a transition team sent in by corporate during a disastrous merger! And the unwilling stock holders in this blunder are us!

What's really weird is that we've known all of this from before, in detail, during Viet Nam. The first time we tried to invade a country of brown people that didn’t want us there. They even had an evil dictator in charge and everything!

Captive prisoners of war in various detention centers, awaiting some kind of legal dispensation, is an equally nasty pickle too, one we don’t appear to have a good enough answer for. You see technically, it isn’t illegal for foreigners to hate the US, even to plan and wish for its destruction.

Especially if you aren’t AMERICAN!

Yet our guests in Gitmo continue to meet with their appointed lawyers day after day hoping for either time travel to be invented and someone to hit the rewind button, for someone to somehow figure out how to negotiate a mutually honorable way out. 

So much for honor.

All of this comes from the ridiculous notion that today war can actually achieve anything.

I accept that after WWII the long term occupation of Japan and Germany worked.
Yes, in case you have not read your history, after WWII, the US, through the Marshall and various other Plans, occupied both Japan and Germany for as long as 12 years. 

After a war that barely lasted 2.

And get this, in Japan the US dealt with a feudal warlord system, a racist royal family, differing religious and social groups. Sound familiar? Yet 12 years later, the Japanese were building automobiles, listening to transistor radios, playing baseball and reading comic books, under safe 110 volt lighting.

In Germany, once again, occupation dealt with diverse ethno-cultural religions of Lutheran, Catholic, and Jewish people, as well as Nazi party leftovers, and produced the world’s second largest economy based un-entirely on good beer and quality sausage.

The parallels of post WWII Germany and Japan, living under brutal dictatorships, with 2 or more competing religious sects and an ethnic minority under siege, and current Iraq are so uncanny, that once you focus to see it, the Rumsfield and Wolfowitz doctrine is nothing more than 10th grade plagiarism. But does everyone today truly think Iraq will turn out just like Germany or Japan?

The question now seems to be whether or not an appropriate level of military force is the answer. In the examples of Germany and Japan, it wasn’t just overwhelming force, it was literally nuclear levels of force. Even before Nagasaki and Hiroshima, in one night alone during the fire bombing of Tokyo, over 90,000 civilians were killed.
Would the world tolerate a death toll this great, today? Would it take that kind of firepower to subdue Iraq into accepting the kind of inevitable fate we are trying to half-heartedly talk them into today?

The Marshall Plan for Germany and Japan was quite clear. Our rules, our system, we won the war, you lost, shut up and deal with it. It will be for your own good when we're done. Trust us, we know what we're doing.

And it was. And they did.

And so it appears, according to the history the US finds itself repeating, that it does not have one tenth of the manpower needed to stabilize a country like Iraq. Never mind simultaneously attack Iran. And it has not used the kind of overwhelming force we learned is necessary, from the WWII.

Apparently and this is just a joke, Iran's military strategy should America attack via Iraq in the West, and Afghanistan in the East, is for all Iranian forces to drop to the floor when the shooting starts.

But far worse than another military defeat the US is afraid it would suffer from not enough soldiers and firepower in an Asian land war, most damaging to any success is that the US has not bothered to map out a clear and coherent Marshall Plan for the Mid-East.


Laissez les bons temps rouler!

First published on August 29, 2007
Easy as in, Big Easy
It was around this time 2 years ago, actually in June, when my good friend Fardad and I, went on a short hop business trip to New Orleans to attend a tradeshow.

With all of the news surrounding the Big Easy since, and the somewhat uncertain road back to normal life and the living, I thought it might be a good time to make a travel recommendation to all of you. Suffice it to say, a visit to New Orleans is always in order, always a good idea. After you have been to this wonderful place, just once, you will understand a couple things.
First, nothing but nothing will dissuade the indomitable character of New Orleans, not a pissant bitch-named-Katrina storm, not flooding, not un-maintained failing levees, not an inept FEMA, not even God. There is simply too much pure sensual spirit in New Orleans for that.

Second, there are some places on Earth that just simply feel good. You can't explain it. Except that when we went to New Orleans we just somehow felt very at home, confident, unafraid of any uncertainty, a very familiar feeling. Iran used to feel like this.

We arrived at the New Orleans airport, grabbed our bags, and walked towards the automatic sliding doors that separate the conditioned inside air, with the unconditioned outside air. The humidity welcomed us to the Big Easy with an instant slap to the face, like a hot pillow fight. Our clothes instantly stuck to our bodies, static-charged by the warm wet and sexy air.
Canal St. Cablecar
We grabbed a cab and within 15 minutes were at the same usual hotel, the same usual Marriott monster corporate hotel in the same usual convention part of the city, just like you'd expect. We checked into our consummately American room, just like you'd expect.

It was mid-afternoon, and I told Fardad I would go and buy some shorts, because all I had brought were long pants, and the ride to the hotel had quickly convinced me this was a bad idea. He said he was going to jump in the shower. I went out the lobby and carved my way through the humidity, it was like walking though a snowstorm in hell, but without snow. Actually snow sounded really good right about now.

I crossed Canal street to the middle just as a trolley rolled past, welcoming me with the clanging of it's familiar San Francisco ding-di-di-ding-ding, I waited for the rush of the wind to hit me as it screeched past, hoping it would cool me a bit, before crossing the rest of the way. I walked into a clothing store, those un-famous stores, the kind they have in Iran, "Starlite Fashions". The owner was an Arab, I know because he was talking on a cell phone and the Ahlan-wa-Sahlan speak was unmistakable. Plus I'm Iranian. We know what Arabic sounds like.

I thumbed through the racks and found a decent pair of khaki shorts, a golf shirt and went to pay. I took the shopping bag and went out to the sidewalk, it was getting darker, and it seemed to somehow be more alive. I went back to the hotel and changed into my more appropriate wear, Fardad had cooled off in the shower, and we decided to head out.

Our hotel was about 3 blocks from the infamous Bourbon Street, off of Canal, and as soon as we turned into it, we instantly got what all the hoopla was about. What looks like a pirate's town alley, is transformed into a very alive, semi-adult young at heart playground. Which is appropriate because it used to be a Pirate town.

It's not dirty, although there are strip clubs and sex-toy shops. It's not sleazy although you will catch the glimpse of male and female hookers out of the corner of your eye. It's not a cesspool of petty crime, although if you take the bait, you will be hustled out of at least $20. It's more that you don't seem to mind it one single bit, as it's happening and unfolding around you, as you stroll through it.

About half way down Bourbon (street), you will pass a rainbow of hurricane bars. A hurricane is a colorful drink made with rum and an icy slushy mix, like a pina colada would be a white one, you know, sweetly flavored girly drinks, that make girls sweet. Sweeter. (and yes that is precisely the reason there are many many hurricane bars in N.O.). As you stroll, you will come to see a corner bar with a big colorful neon sign that says, half tauntingly, "Hand Grenade: the Strongest Drink in New Orleans!"
You can't avoid it, as didn't we. Fardad looked at me. Fardad is the kind of Iranian who can instantly turn on the twinkle in his eye, like a light, when he gets "that way". 

So we ambled in and an equally sweaty bartender-ess asked us what she could get us, and because of past experience which offers at least this much {} wisdom, we wisely asked her what was in a Hand Grenade. Which is exactly the problem.

She smiled a southern sly smile, "It's a secret!" she said, "But trust me they're gewd.". Which apparently was enough of an endorsement for us to promptly reach into our pockets and pony up the cash to get one.

They come in a long luminescent neon green tube with a round enclosure in the shape of a hand grenade at the bottom. A handlegrenade actually. Filled with ice, which in N.O. you come to appreciate as a wonderful invention, and the secret recipe of the mixed drink. It was sweet and sour, you know, all the elements of a drink designed specifically to sneak up on you and go....Boo! Later I learned one of the ingredients was the infamous southern corn liquor known as moonshine, illegal to ship out of Louisiana.

We grabbed our handlegrenades and walked out fully intending to continue our stroll down Bourbon (street). Sipping as we walked, we noticed that people were now walking down the middle of the street, and it was when we got to a corner that we saw that this is done on purpose. After 7 pm the police put up barriers at the beginning and end of Bourbon street as well as all of the connecting cross streets, to allow for people to mill through on foot without fear of cars. We were about to find out how convenient this was shortly.

We walked and sipped and looked this way, and walked and sipped and looked that way, peeking into a strip club here, shyly refusing the invitations of the off duty strippers trying to get us into their clubs. Meanwhile the strains of jazz and rock and country music, voices of all shapes, singing off key and on, filled the air, as we walked past piano bars and live music "joints".

And the lights! Each shop, restaurant, bar, club, had a neon piñata of lights advertising the lowest prices, the best food, the livest music, the prettiest dancers, and so on. And it was warm, it was sweaty, it was dark, and it was fun.

I pulled up to a rock bar with a young singer, guitar slung low, wearing bright orange suspenders that matched an equally bright orange mohawk, tattooed arms swinging. I listened to him wail a rock ballad as the backup singers bobbed side to side in unison.

I looked to my side to find Fardad and move on to the next joint, except, no Fardad!
I looked around and couldn't believe I had lost him. I moved up the sidewalk a few yards thinking maybe he had passed me when I stopped to watch the band, but didn't see him. So I doubled back down the sidewalk, past the band, and that was when I saw him, at the earlier corner, staring up at the neon lights, mesmerized.

I made my way back, and reached him on the corner, he looked at me and grinned, eyes sparkling. Then he looked back up at the lights, instantly becoming one of the evening's many handgrenade casualties. Or at least one of two!

I grinned back at him and nodded at him to come one and leave the pretty lights alone. We moved on. We reached the end of the busy part of Bourbon street, at some point it just turns into what looks like a normal street in the obviously gay part of any town, with possibly just a tad more or less rainbow flags hanging off the balconies, depending on where you come from.
And precisely or sometime right around this point in time, exactly somewhere, is where I forget what happened next.


If you ever get the slightest chance to go to New Orleans, take it. You will love it.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Riding BART: Nadine on the phone

First published on December 19, 2007 

I have a project that takes me to the outskirts of San Francisco several days a week, and attempting to be an environment and energy conscious (admittedly SUV driving) suburbanite, I have been commuting to work using the infamous San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit system, known better to us locals as BART. 

As any major metropolitan mass transit system, BART attracts those homeless people who faced with the physical danger of sleeping outside, literally outdoors at night, somehow scrape the spare change with which to buy a minimum BART ticket to ride the system all day long to catch up on the sleep they could not get standing guard over what little possessions or pets they might have left in the world, that another homeless person or simple thug may covet. Or they may be spending all night drinking and doing drugs. 

And then there are the blessed crazies! In the years I have ridden BART, I have come to be able to look for and recognize the fringe insane wandering freely among us. They pop up subtly out of the corner of your eye, if you blink they're gone, if you can get away with watching them furtively, they are amazing examples of random humanity dancing on the razor's edge of normal. 

Today, as I was waiting for the train, I saw one such example. I have seen her before, she is a nondescript older woman we'll call Nadine. I would say in her late sixties to early seventies. She has short Beatle-cut sandy gray hair, small eyes that you can tell used to be shinier in days gone past. She is dressed in a teal hood-less parka, with black slacks that hide stains in their convenient color-lessness. She has a typical carry-on suitcase, the kind you pull behind you as you scamper off for a wild weekend to New York or Vegas. The difference between homelessness and a weekend romp, is the degree to which your case is over packed. Hers is bulging. Sitting precariously on top on the ledge between the case and the extended pull-handle is a matching large hand bag, straps looped over. 

I have seen Nadine before, years ago and at the time, it only registered for a moment and stayed buried, but seeing her again today, brought the whole episode back, and I had to write it down or risk forgetting it forever. Years ago, I saw Nadine while loading up my ticket from one of the many machines that hungrily take your change, cash, credit cards, or first-born to feed the immense system of rails, cars, conductors, fake engineers, computers, and their computerized robot male and female voices, a seeming city that seems necessary to make trains run these days. 

As I was waiting in line to get to the machine, I saw Nadine standing next to one of the many pay phones on the wall. She was talking on the phone. As I got closer to the ticket machine, I noticed she had a look of concern or confusion on her face. I thought she might be a lost grandma, or had gotten off at the wrong station, or something like that, and was talking to a relative to figure out how she would get home. Having been a boy scout, I am naturally and legally pre-dispositioned to helping little old ladies cross the street, so I listened in to see if I could help her. 

As I listened and could hear her words clearer, I realized suddenly that she was not talking to someone on the other end, but that she was reciting a very descriptive passage from some literary text, that I could not place. But the passages were so flowery and descriptive and irrelevant to a common phone conversation in a subway, that it almost made my head spin! 

By the time, I could process what I had just witnessed, it was my turn at the ticket machine, and I slid my credit card across the slot and added my absurdly large week's amount, and shuffled off like a sheep behind the other cattle. As I passed her, I glanced at her in fear, and as if to put the final cherry on my hallucination sundae, I saw that the phone Nadine was using had a disconnected cord! At that moment our eyes met for just a blink, and I noticed just the barest smile rise in her mouth, as if she was still trying to hide the secret that I had found out. 

Now back to this morning. Today, I saw Nadine again, it's been probably 7 years or so since our last encounter, and I could recognize her pretty easily. Probably from her eyes. I was hidden behind several other commuters down the platform, but I could easily watch her over the tops of the shorter passengers in front of me, without her seeing me. As I got closer, I could hear the literary passage she was reciting today. I could also see her clearer now, how she was dressed, her hair, and her eyes, to confirm. She looked well in general, cleaner, healthier. 

But this time there was no cordless pay phone. As if "upgraded" by Beyoncé herself, Nadine was reciting her classics this time on a cellphone, that somehow was not glowing that eery green glow near the talking cheek. You know, that eery green glow of a cellphone that is normally turned on! 

Happy Holidays Nadine, stay warm, stay safe.

Google God: Google proves the importance of working

First published on January 10, 2007

Note: This is a satirical piece and commentary and not fact, none of the fake names, fake interviews, or fake products are real Google employees, or products. Although they should be.

Google was recently named the top company to work for in the US. Most of the news Google released in order to emphasize this by releasing this news, has emphasized this. Google makes one thing that it charges money for, namely that tiny Google text ad that you are ignoring while you are reading this fake news story. As a result and apparently, most of the employees at Google don't actually do anything, hopefully and including getting the attempt at satire here.

While the actual contribution of Google employees towards keeping Google the juggernaut it has become, or exactly what makes the company so successful, is largely unknown, it hasn't stopped the company from continually hiring more and more people, who in turn do not know what Google does. Thereby ensuring it's continued success.

Bob Moshpitt, an HR manager and 6-year veteran at Google said, "I get in around 10 and randomly grab resumes from my email inbox - I uh, think they come from Monster or Craig's List - and I forward them to another email address that I was given the first day I started. After that, I am totally free to work on my own project, which currently is this innovative free internet service that allows you to enter your email address or cell number, ethnic type, gender, and birth date, and after you mail in a urine sample to a lab in Fresno, the website will email, SMS, RSS, or Text you a reminder to let you know when it is time to cut your toenails, trim your ear and nose hair, and control that one crazy hair on your left eyebrow. You can then send your schedule and pictures of your clippings, including videos of the actual act, to other subscribers and share tips on grooming. I am expecting to be fully funded by Linner today, or tomorrow for sure." [Note: "Linner" is yet another Google innovation namely, the meal served after lunch, but before dinner.]

Susan "Sooz" Vagineram, a Maintenance Supervisor of First Impressions and a 1 year rookie, known as Googoolies at Google added, "We find that simply having a large pool of PhDs on our payroll, adds tremendously to our street credibility. Once we crossed the 300 PhD threshold back in 2005, we saw an average 60% increase in ad click throughs, and we think we're pretty sure, that is what caused it. At least that is the only thing we know we were actively doing at the time. So we have been steadily adding PhDs ever since." Asked what the PhDs actually did at Google, Vagineram replied, "Dude, does it matter?" Then she grinned incredulously. Such is the high relative morale at the world's leading repository of the world's known supply of repositable material.

Other companies seeing Google's tremendously unexplainable and unexplainably tremendous increase in market share, for simply being the coolest company ever thought up, announced similar Google-like employee motivational incentive plans. Some of these plans have yet to prove their worth. Chevron for example, recently announced a $5,000 monthly bonus for employees who commute by themselves in a full size (or larger) SUV, but added an extra $2,500 bonus, if the employee successfully proves they drove a Hybrid off the road, or caused one to "accidentally" plow into an organic non-pesticide using farmers market.

Other programs have been less than effective however, such as the decision by former networking hardware leader who chose to remain nameless for this article, but rhymes with "Frisco", to offer the infamous MUGU fish at the employee cafeteria sushi bar. The MUGU or puffer fish is extremely poisonous and has a 1 in 100 chance of causing sudden paralysis and death. However, from the general lack of energy and enthusiasm at "Frisco", it is unknown if any employees have actually been poisoned to date, or are simply this listless naturally.

While it seems that there is no end in sight for Google's stellar performance as one of history's most puzzling companies, one has to wonder what will happen when the final post-retirement-internet-based-business-franchise-that-thinks-spamming-is- a-valid-direct-to-consumer-promotional-program finally folds, and the advertising market having shifted it's entire sales force offshore, to entirely commission-based Indian and Chinese contractors who finally strike and win labor and wage concessions from management, finally realizes that Google's click ads, were in fact nothing more than the then easily ignored banner ads of the 90's, only image-less, absent the entertainment of trying to hit the monkey with the banana, but with about the same zero impact of generating any actual sales for the advertiser. Whatsoever.

What is interesting to note, is that the increase in sales that has been purportedly reported by, claimed by, and taken credit for by Google, during this Google era, has actually coincided with a parallel advertising campaign that is currently being run across the US during the Rush Limbaugh AM radio program, and those local coupon booklets you get in the mail.

In the meantime, the party's on at Google, and the wine flows like, well, wine, and a measure of a man's or woman's worth is in the amount of office bling in your cubicle, how much you can chug at Beer Bust Friday, how casual is too casual, and the color of your scooter's wheels. Google On Wayne! Google On Garth! Excellent!

News Update: Google announced today the launch of it's latest free service, Google God. Using Google God, prospective parishioners can now search across all known religions and upon finding the supernatural belief system that fits their personal training schedule, can instantly apply for and accept the deity of that religion as their personal savior.

Competing services Haji's List which connects Hajis to Hajis, or offering those who cannot make the actual hajj pilgrimage, to be able to walk around the kaabeh seven times virtually, and providing a realtime internetcam view of the wall on users' computer screens for remote praying, did not have any comment regarding Google's foray into this vertical market, but share prices of each dropped at the close of the market.

Google God makes switching faiths extremely simple by offering a constantly updated "Sin Calculator" allowing a sinner to instantly switch over to the best religion costing the least penance. Google God also announced partnerships with the Vatican in which the faithful could arrange for their newly chosen faith to be paid for automatically via payroll withholding using PayPal, Visa and MasterCard. Although no final announcement has been made at this time, God does not currently accept American Express. Google is an internet company based in theory and in 1998 invented the internet search engine that was already invented by Infoseek, Lycos and Yahoo in 1994.

Timeless Bob Dylan Surfaces Once Again

First published on August 1, 2004

Bob Dylan often baffles people. An unseeming living legend supposedly representing the 60's anti establishmentarianism, the hippy generation, and the anti-Viet-Nam war protestors of his time. And often the lyrics of his songs sung with that unique voice of his, seem altogether out of place. And because you never knew, you wonder, "What makes this guy so special?"

This happened to me while watching the Democratic convention last week and the ongoing political drama leading up to this Fall's elections. That combined with a happenchance online search result that landed this particular song from 1965.

Whether it be a clear message for Bush/Cheney, or a sage recommendation for the Iraq war, or a warning for Kerry/Edwards to heed, every so often, Dylan's brilliance and the timeless nature of his words flickers on and shines onto your consciousness, and you suddenly get it. Ah! So he is one of those true poets after all!

It's All Over Now, Baby Blue
by Bob Dylan

You must leave now, take what you need, you think will last.
But whatever you wish to keep, you better grab it fast.
Yonder stands your orphan with his gun,
Crying like a fire in the sun.
Look out the saints are comin' through
And it's all over now, Baby Blue.

The highway is for gamblers, better use your sense.
Take what you have gathered from coincidence.
The empty-handed painter from your streets
Is drawing crazy patterns on your sheets.
The sky, too, is folding under you
And it's all over now, Baby Blue.

All your seasick sailors, they are rowing home.
Your empty-handed armies, is all going home.
The lover who just walked out your door
Has taken all his blankets from the floor.
The carpet, too, is moving under you
And it's all over now, Baby Blue.
Leave your stepping stones behind, now something it calls for you.
Forget the dead you've left, they will not follow you.
The vagabond who's rapping at your door
Is standing in the clothes that you once wore.
Strike another match, go start anew
And it's all over now, Baby Blue.