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5.10.02 - Strife in the Fast Lane

Another Florida/police story.  Sorry, I can't think of anything else.

About 3 days after I moved to Florida, I went to pick up my friend Mike, whose Mom had a house down there.  We were driving along an expressway called, if memory serves, "The Bee," which was completely deserted.

So, I was going about 90 or so.  I look up and into the rearview mirror, and I see a Florida Highway Patrol car approaching me at roughly 7,480 mph.  Whoopsie.

So, I pull over and roll down my window.  The patrolman gets out and walks over to my door, saying "Could you step out of the car, sir?"  And I say yes, and unfasten my seat-belt.  At the same time, the cop reaches in my open window and unlocks my door, then opens my door, then grabs me by the front of the shirt and yanks me out of the car.  This was, uh... alarming.

He shoves me toward the back of my car.  I start walking, terrified, and when we get to the rear of my car, he grabs me by the back of the neck, slams me against the trunk, kicks my legs apart, frisks me, and yanks my wallet out of my back pocket.  He shouts at Mike (who is in the passenger seat) to put his hands on his head.

So, I'm standing there in the get-up-against-the-wall-and-spread-'em position, my hands on the trunk of the car, the cop with his forearm pressing down on my back while he goes through my wallet and screams at me about reckless driving and how he's going to arrest me.  I am agreeing with everything he is saying as best I can, and he in turn is thoughtfully stressing his points about what a scumbag I am by shoving his forearm down onto my back.

My car, I should mention at this point, is a stick-shift.  I should also mention that I'd left it in neutral before being dragged from the car.

Plus, I hadn't set the brake.

I realize all of this when my car slowly begins to roll forward.  The cop is still pressing a lot of weight on my back, and it's pushing the car forward and I'm kinda going with it, since my hands are on the trunk.  I try to stand up straight to take my weight off it, and the cop yells "DON'T YOU FUCKING MOVE" so I stop fucking moving.  My feet firmly planted, my hands on the rolling car, I'm gradually becoming horizontal.  I want to yell to Mike to put on the brake, but I'm afraid to say anything, and besides, Mike has his hands on his head, and I wouldn't want him to encourage the cop to start shooting by reaching for the brake.

So, I just close my eyes and wait for the inevitable. I slowly become closer and closer to the ground, while the cop yells and whacks me on the back and the car rolls forward.  I feel a little like the person who stands with one foot on a boat and one on the dock, while the boat slowly drifts away.  I figure my center of gravity will eventually cause me to fall flat on my face, which is fine, because it will be easier for the cop to kick me to death that way, something I'm guessing is on his list of things to do.

But no!  He seems to realize that my nose is almost touching the ground at this point, and he grabs me by the neck, yanks me upright, drags me around a little, and crams me back into my car.  He lectures me in an enraged psychotic screaming way, and I finally get a look at his face.  He looks like Chet from "Weird Science."  Buzz-cut and crazy-eyed.  I can tell just by looking at him that he really wanted to be a marine and go to foreign countries and kill people with his bare hands.

He yells and screams and then finally stops.  Hands me my wallet.  Gets in his car.  Drives away.  No ticket or anything.

I learned my lesson, too.  I never broke the speed limit again.  Well.  Not until one fateful day at an ATM...


5.9.02 - True Story

When I was 19, I got my own apartment for the very first time.  I had been living with two roommates for a year while I tried college out in Orlando, Florida, but this was the first time I'd be living on my own.  I was, in a word, excited.

If you need another word, it would be broke.  Man, I was broke.  I had dropped out of school and had a job, but money was incredibly tight and I was watching every penny.  I signed the lease and wrote the check for the deposit for my new place on a Sunday, and went immediately to an ATM to deposit my paycheck, so afraid I was of bouncing the check I had written.  A few days later, I moved in and was blissfully happy in my very own tiny place.

About a month later, I was going over my bank statement, again on a Sunday.  I looked at the balance and saw it read $1.47.  Whuh.  No.  No! Impossible!

I had been so careful with my money.  How could I only have $1.47?  I had come amazingly close to bouncing that deposit check and getting evicted.  I checked the list of deposits and withdrawals in a panic.  And there it was, standing out like a sore thumb:  an ATM withdrawal of $100, about a month ago.  I thought and thought, but I knew I hadn't taken out that much money.  I never would have!  I didn't have it to spend, and with my deposit and rent and everything, I couldn't afford to just blow $100.  I wasn't even withdrawing cash from ATM's at all these days, because I got cash tips at my job (at a restaurant) and I wrote checks for everything else I needed.  What the hell was going on?

On a whim, I opened my wallet.  Sure enough, my ATM card was missing.  Ack!  How?  How did someone steal my ATM and get my PIN?  I couldn't figure it out.  I didn't have friends, let alone enemies.  Well, it was Sunday, and there was nothing I could do.  I'd call the bank tomorrow and hope I could work it out somehow.

Monday morning, the phone woke me up.  Someone said my name.  The someone was a police officer.

"Are you missing an ATM card?" the cop asked.

Damn!  Someone had stolen it!  I'm screwed, the money is gone.  Still couldn't figure out quite how, though.

"Uh, yeah!  Yeah, I am!  And about $100," I added glumly.

"Well, we've got your card and your money, so just come down to the station to get it."


Great!  Also:  what?  How could the cops have my card AND my money?  Did they catch someone taking money out of my account with my card?  How would they know the person wasn't using their own account?  Did someone steal my card, somehow guess my PIN, take out $100, then collapse from guilt and turn themselves in?  I couldn't put it all together.

So, I went to the police station, showed my I.D., and was handed my ATM card and five $20 bills.  Along with the police report.  It went like this:

A guy, let's call him Doug, because that's his name, drove up to an ATM about a month ago.  He sat in his car, watching someone use the machine.  This person was dodging and ducking and moving around a lot.  Then this person jumped into a car and sped off at high speed like a maniac, in Doug's words.

Doug got out, went to the ATM, and stuck in his card, which popped back out.  He stuck his card in again and the same thing happened, but saw that the screen was asking him if he wanted to make a transaction.  He though it was odd that his card had popped out and also that he hadn't had to put in his PIN, but he selected to withdraw $100 anyway.  The money popped out... followed by an ATM card with my name on it.

Doug realized the money he'd withdrawn had come out of my account, not his.  The person at the ATM before him must have been trying to get it to work, and fled when it didn't seem to be.  That would account for the roaring off in the car, and the moving around a lot in front of the ATM could have been this perp trying to avoid the ATM's security camera.  Doug had turned in the card, the money, and given a description of the ATM bandit to the cops, who had (eventually) called me.

I was still baffled.  So, someone had stolen my card, guessed the PIN and yet hadn't been able to make off with the money?  Who the hell was this idiot?  I looked over the description.

About 5'8, 150, light brown hair, round wire-rimmed glasses.  Drove a silver two-door.

"Sound like someone you know?" the cop asked me.

"Man, I don't know," I said.  "Let's see, about 5'8... my height...  light brown hair, like mine... about the same weight as me... round wire-rimmed glasses, like the ones I have.... silver car, like m--"

Oh.  Okay then.  The thief was me.

Here's what happened.  On the Sunday I signed my lease I went to the ATM to deposit my paycheck.  I'd never done it before, and I didn't have the deposit envelope ready when the machine asked for it.  I suppose me grabbing the envelope, looking for something to lean on, hurriedly filling it out, and figuring out where to insert it could possibly qualify as "dodging and ducking around" by some stretch of the imagination.  And then I must have just left my ATM in the machine like a doofus, with the screen asking if I wanted another transaction.  And Doug had been sitting in his car, waiting for me to finish.

So, I was my own perp.  I had been called to the police station to basically pick myself out of a lineup.  Doug, who I'd characterize as the most suspicious person on the planet, had at least been honest and returned the money.  Thanks, dude!

Oh, and as for roaring off in my car like a lunatic, well, shit.  That's no mystery.  

I'm from New York.


5.8.02 - Of Archer Fish And Asshats

Whoops!  Forgot to throw you some Diversions on Monday.  My bad!

Today, we've got Dfilm, which is a cool flash movie-maker.  Also, Insaniquarium, a fun little fishtank game.  And, the Tourette Syndrome Generator, which transforms text into, well... here's an example of this sentence:  "And, the Tourette Syndrome fucking Generator, which shit transforms text into, wank WELL... HERE'S an example fucking of wank THIS shit sentence."


Anyway.  Last Friday, I wrote up a bit about the archer fish and how natural selection wasn't sitting well with me and how Charles Darwin was an asshat.  I got some interesting responses, a few of which I'll share here:

Hi Chris, 

I am a regular reader of Not My Desk. I find your experiences in temping to be interesting and well written. 

That said, do yourself a favor and stick with writing about temping or other things you understand. Your essay on natural selection does not show any new or critical thinking on the subject. All it does is show that you are ignorant about the theory of natural selection, and that you don't do much research before you let fly with your opinions. 

You are not the first person to raise this objection about the development of complex structures. Most often you find religious types making this same argument. The most common form of this is the "What good is half an eye?" argument. Look it up on Google. 

On the bright side, most people are equally ignorant on natural selection, and will not even notice the lack of understanding demonstrated in your commentary.

I got a few e-mails along these lines.  E-mails that didn't seem to take into account that I was trying to be funny.  E-mails that seemed to think I had some sort of agenda.  E-mails that seemed to say I was an idiot for writing what I had written.

I got angry.  I sulked and stewed.  I wrote back nastily.  I suggested sticks be removed from asses and ropes be pissed up and sand be pounded where sticks, just moments ago, had been freed.  Everyone needed to lighten up.  Everyone but me, of course!

My thoughts were: Hey, regular readers should know I'm just trying to be funny.  I'm not trying to present any new or critical thinking on the subject.  Rilly!  I try very hard not to present any new or critical thinking about anything, because I suck at new and critical thinking.  This site is not about breaking intellectual barriers and it's not intended as reference material.  It's about making jokes and it's intended to be funny.

Of course, I had missed something.  What I had written somewhat mirrored a favorite argument of the creationists.  Somewhat?  Shit.  The archer fish, as it turns out, is the Official Proof-Of-God FundieFish(tm).  This was news to me.  Um... D'oh?

One friend of mine wanted to know how I could have missed this little tidbit.  If I'd read up on the archer fish, he figured, I probably should have seen something about it.  I didn't, as a matter of fact.  It hadn't occurred to me to see if the little fish held some sort of connection to God.  Why should it have?  I wrote about involuntary twitches a few weeks ago, and I hadn't checked to see if they had anything to do with the bible beforehand.  So, again, I got all pissy and sulky.  Huffy, even!  My, but I was huffy.

In preparation for the column, I had looked at two pages that explained how the archer fish could spit on bugs.  That was all.  I generally start writing my site at about 11pm, I told myself.  I don't have time to research things properly, I told myself.  I don't have time to go over and over my stuff, to pore over pages and pages of material.  And why should I, anyway?  I'm just trying to be funny.  I'm trying to crank out something every day, don't these people realize that?  I sulked a little more, and read some more e-mail.

Hi Chris, 

I know you're trying to be funny (and mostly are), but you do a great disservice when you perpetuate mistaken beliefs about evolution. A species can develop various characteristics over time, using them for whatever is useful _at_the_time_. 

Later, said features can be adapted to other uses. The other possible explanation for how less specialised stages of adaptation could have helped the angler-fish's ancestors is that being only a little bit better at something is more advantageous than being no better. If its ancestor's could just spit a bit of water at a bug on a very low hanging branch and hit only 10 per cent of the time, it would be an advantage over fish that had to wait for bugs to fall through buggy-clumsiness. 

Way too serious for what is a humour page, I know, but there are freaks out there who will grasp at any anti-evolution straw. They complain evolution is taught in public schools. I complain that it is not taught properly.

One thing I found interesting about all this is that I didn't actually hear from any creationists.  Not a single pat on the back from the Jesus Krew.  The evolutionist peeps were quick to defend Darwin or explain the faults of my "argument" but no fundies wrote in and welcomed me to the fold.  Another thing that bugged me was that I hadn't mentioned God at all, but God was being mentioned in some of the e-mail I was getting.

Of course, a lot of the e-mail I was getting started off with things like "Hey, I know you're just goofing around, but..." so other people were not taking it seriously.  They still ripped into me, mind you, and refuted everything I had written, but it wasn't with any real malice.   I became less sulky.  It's nice to have intelligent readers, I thought.  I agree with them anyway.  I am, actually, in real life, quite down with the evolution thang.  I read some creationist archer fish stuff online and began to understand why people had maybe taken my column for more than it was intended to be, and why they were writing what they were writing.  I slowly pulled my own very large stick from my ass.

Hi, I enjoy your site. 

The rant about Darwin and evolution is a pretty common argument against evolution, though, often presented with the eye as an example. The idea is that an eye can't work if you mess with even one tiny part of it. The counterargument, which I find persuasive, is that you can imagine an eye just a bit worse than your own --- an eye that works, but not too well. In the evolutionary crapshoot, such an eye is still a big advantage over no eye, or over any less efficient eye. 

Proceed backwards to ever worse eyes, and you've built a chain whereby the evolution of the eye can occur. Evolution simply waits for one being to start such a path, and then favors it. To take your fish example--sure, the fish can't practice archery on bugs if it doesn't have the right equipment. But probably not everything you list IS required to get an evolutionary advantage. Start with a fish that for some reason spits at bugs. If the result is a mild survival edge, you've started it down the path that leads to the exquisitely adapted archer fish. It's a complex argument that requires a fair amount of work.

Well, what do I ultimately think?  I think it was okay for me to be surprised and peeved that people took me seriously.  And I think it was okay for people to get peeved and to take me seriously.  I think it's just one of those things.  I apologize to those of you, if you're still reading, who I said nasty things to.  But only sort of.  Y'know?

The last e-mail included this P.S.:

In case your reaction is 'so what? I was trying to be funny.'...then hey, you posted something about evolution. Expect e-mail. :)

I was.  And, in the future, I will.



5.6.02 - Duck, Duck, Goal

We seem to have sports, you know, covered.

What I mean is, there aren't really new sports popping up anymore.  Sure, snowboarding seems pretty recent, and every Olympics they seem to have added something, like synchronized diving (lame!) and that stupid thing that's like figure skating on skis, which I'm pretty sure is just a joke.   If it's not a joke, then someone needs to tell those people they look like complete morons.  Also, floor gymnastics seem to add something every now and then, like a ribbon to twirl or a hoop to throw or whatever.  I expect floor routines will someday include spinning plates or juggling pins, and at that point, you might as well just throw in the floppy shoes and call them clowns.

But sports, as a whole, seem... kinda done.  We've got lots.  Baseball, football, basketball, tennis, hockey, cricket, rugby.  A lot of things involving running and jumping and throwing either heavy, flat, or pointy objects.  Various types of racing.  I won't count golf but I know some do.  Bowling, boxing, etc.  We've got our teams, and our fans, and we seem to have settled on everything aside from the occasional rule change and spin-off sport (like the XFL).

Still.  You'd think there would be new sports popping up every day.  Why not?  Do we really have every single combination of players and objects and fields covered?  It can't be.

Think of all the money sports generate, and you know there's a goldmine waiting for the person who invents the next sport.  Sure, it could easily fail (like the XFL).  But there are riches to be had.  And it can't even be that hard to come up with a sport no one has ever seen before.

Think of three major sports: football, basketball, hockey.  They're all basically the same thing.  You've got two teams on a playing area which is basically rectangular, trying to move something past each other and into a goal of some kind while the clock runs down and the coach glowers nearby.  I know there are obvious differences (basketball players are tall and jump a lot and have squeaky shoes, football players ram into each other and can't form coherent sentences, and hockey, well, hockey just sucks), but the premise is basically the same.  Soccer fits into that category as well, I guess, only they kick their playing object and their fans tend to riot on a more regular basis.

Then you have baseball, which is completely different, but there is still an object (the baseball) that people are throwing and catching and moving around, and there are still large, dumb men making a gadzillion dollars to do it.  Also, the managers and coaches wear uniforms, same as the players, which I think they should apply to other sports, like basketball and hockey.  Just 'cos it would be funny.

But I'm having a hard time accepting that there can't be something new out there, just waiting to be invented.  Why not a playing field shaped like a huge plus sign, with four teams out there, trying to... do something.  I haven't worked out what yet, but I think it should involve shoving and harsh language.  And why do sports use just one ball at a time?  Why not two?  Or seven?  Why even bother with a ball?  Why is a ball such a great thing to play a sport with, anyway?  What's wrong with a competition surrounding possession of a wooden duck?  Or a live duck, for that matter?  Or two?  How about men tussling over a fitted sheet or an ornate serving tray or a handful of cherry tomatoes (like the XFL)?  Why not a sport with just ONE TEAM battling against... I dunno, some lions or something.  Oh, wait, they did that one already.

I'm just throwing out ideas here, really, just brainstorming.  There must be something new under the sun, and I want to get people out there inventing it already.  And no, despite my mention of the money earlier, that's not my main goal.

What started me thinking about this in the first place were the athletes themselves.  There are obviously people born to play these existing sports, which is kind of weird.  You hear about the greats, the best of the best, mostly the guys (and gals) who really work at becoming the best at their particular position in their particular sport. And then you hear about the naturals, the ones who just have a gift for it.

It's weird that things come along and people are just good at them.  Great at them, even.  I mean, Tiger Woods.  He's great at golf, he's worked hard, but he clearly has a gift.  But let's say golf had never been invented.  Would Tiger be working in a radio shack somewhere?  Mark McGuire could be giving you an oil change if not for baseball.  Dennis Rodman, if basketball hadn't cropped up, would probably still be a complete dillhole.  But at least I wouldn't have heard of him.

But what I'm really getting at here, ultimately, is me.  There must be a sport, not invented yet, that'd I'd be a natural at.  I say this with certainty, because I completely suck at everything already out there.  Boy, do I suck.  With the exception of Playstation baseball set at rookie level, I'm a complete loss, sportswise.

So, c'mon.  Invent something I'm good at.  Hurry.  I'd do it myself, but wouldn't you know it, I suck at inventing.


Last Week on Not My Desk!

Alas, Alack, Alarm
Bag Reel
A Hyena ate my Dingo Baby!
Missed Connections

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Smurf Rescue
Donkey Kong
Space Panic

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Mary Jo Pehl Interview
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