World

Desperate, Marooned Astronaut Tries To Use Every Item With Every Other Item

Planet Cocytus — Trapped on a mysterious planet and stumped for ideas, NASA Pilot and survival expert Commander Boston Low, trying to transport himself and his crew back to earth, has resorted to trying to use every item he’s found with every other item he’s found.

“I just don’t know what else to do at this point,” Commander Low stated, clearly frustrated. “I’ve been walking all over this planet, and for a while things seemed to be going pretty well, but now I’m just stuck.”

His mission began when he was dispatched aboard the Space Shuttle to divert the path of an asteroid that was on a collision course with Earth. Successfully planting and detonating explosives on the asteroid’s surface, the rock was safely diverted into low earth orbit. Low and his companions, upon investigating the hollow asteroid, found themselves transported to a strange planet with no way to return home.

After some exploration, Low realized he was simply not progressing with his mission any further, and, with no other ideas, he decided to try to combine the various items he’s collected.

“I’ve got a wire, and a rod, and a shovel, and a bunch of other things,” he said, tiredly looking through the collection of objects he’d found since arriving on the planet. “There’s also a lens, a jawbone, a bracelet, and a couple different crystals. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with any of this junk.”

“This sucks,” he added. “I was really having fun there for a while.”

After trying to use each item with different features of the environment, such as columns, devices, and code panels with no results, he finally decided to try combining the items with the other items in hopes of creating a brand new item that might be of some help.

“Well, I’m trying the shovel with the jawbone. That didn’t work. Maybe the shovel with the bracelet? No, that doesn’t work. Maybe the jawbone with the bracelet? Dammit. Nothing.”

After trying all of his items with all of his other items, Low wandered off to a location he’d been in several times before. After examining the same area he’d previously examined, he discovered what appeared to be a machine part.

“Great,” he said. “Another item. I guess I’ll have to try this machine part with everything else I’ve got. That’ll be fun.”

World

Report: One in Four Children Born With Ability To Slow Down Time

Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York — A shocking report was released today by medical researchers working at the Mount Sinai Medical Center’s Bullet-Time Research and Treatment Division, stating that as many as one in four children today are being born with the ability to temporarily slow down time.

“We didn’t expect these numbers,” said Dr. John Anderson, chief researcher of the phenomenon, concluding the five year study. “Frankly, no one did.”

While it has been generally accepted that the ability was becoming more widespread in recent years, particularly among gun-toting vigilantes, high-tech super-soldiers, and Old West renegades, the report still stunned the medical community and the public at large. Dr. Anderson explained the reason it has been difficult to present accurate data until now.

“The problem is, this ability to manipulate the time-stream has been called many, many different things in the past, and in the future as well. Bullet-Time, Matrix-Time, Heightened Reflexes, Adrenaline Rush, Focus Mode, Force Speed… the list goes on and on.”

Dr. Anderson proceeded to go on and on. “Exceeding Sense, The Speedbreaker, Warp Time, Double Haste, Impact Time… I think that’s most of them.”

“That’s precisely why it’s been so difficult to diagnose in both children and adults. But once we started looking at all of these abilities as the same syndrome, we realized it was far more widespread than we initially thought.”

The rise in the number of adults and children with the supernatural ability has caused a great deal of concern for friends and family of the afflicted. “I think everyone probably has a friend or a co-worker or a weird uncle who can slow down time,” said Mildred Payne, whose son was diagnosed with the ability in early adulthood. “But when it’s your own child, it’s a little disturbing. Don’t get me wrong. I love and support my son, and accept him as for who he is. It’s not a choice, he was just born that way. I know that. But it’s still hard not to worry.”

Possessing the ability to slow down time might not be a bad thing, Dr. Anderson was quick to point out. “Look at is this way. There have been mechanical devices specifically designed to give the bearer a similar ability, such as the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System, or V.A.T.S., which indicates, in my mind, that being born with such a talent is a blessing, not a curse.”

“People afflicted with Bullet-Time can lead happy, fulfilling lives,” the doctor continued. “Maybe even happier than most. I mean, with Bullet-Time it’s much easier to pump round after round of white-hot lead into the heads of attacking mutants, clone soldiers, or enemy aliens with deadly accuracy. I could definitely see that coming in handy.”

World

Commander Shepard Triumphantly Resolves Minor Squabble

The Citadel, Serpent Nebula — Commander Shepard of the U.S.S. Normandy chalked up another important victory today when she solved a minor dispute involving a missing, possibly stolen credit chit on The Citadel. Citizens of the universe, still in grave peril from an alien species of immense power and unthinkable evil, rejoiced at Commander Shepard’s key role in solving this minor disagreement.

The trivial incident occurred on Level 26 of The Citadel. A Volus named Kor Tun discovered he was missing a credit chit shortly after bumping into a female Quarian named Lia’Vael. Suspecting she had deliberately engineered their collision to surreptitiously lift the chit from his pocket, Kor Tun flagged down a C-Sec officer and demanded the Quarian be placed under arrest.

It was at this point that Commander Shepard, who had earlier been investigating the mysterious abduction of thousands of colonists by unknown evil alien forces, but who had stopped by the Citadel to shop for tropical fish for her aquarium, overheard the dispute and intervened.

After obtaining each individual’s interpretation of the incident, Shepard began her in-depth investigation, putting the pressing matter of the salvation of the universe on hold once again. Shepard spoke to employees at the Sirta Foundation, where the two aliens had bumped into each other, and at Saronis Applications, where Kor Tun had been shopping earlier. Shepard eventually determined that Kor Tun had made some purchases with the chit but had accidentally left it in the store.

As the matter of the thousands of missing, possibly murdered colonists remained a chilling mystery, Shepard made a quick trip to search for platinum on a planet in the Pax System and took a lengthy detour to have a drink and watch an exotic dancer in the Afterlife Club in the Omega Nebula. She then returned to the Citadel, where the three participants in the missing chit incident were still patiently waiting where she had left them. Shepard informed them of her discovery: the Volus had simply forgotten to take his credit chit with him after leaving Saronis Applications, who were holding it for him.

“That’s what makes Shepard such a valuable commander,” one bystander said. “She has the leadership to put the fate of the universe and the well-being of thousands of missing colonists on hold to look into the smallest personal matter, such as finding ingredients for her ship’s cook so he can prepare a nice meal, buying toy spaceships to decorate her cabin, or seeing how many of her shipmates she can seduce.”

News of Shepard’s decisive minor victory quickly spread through the galaxy, lifting the spirits of people everywhere who were wondering what had happened to their missing loved ones and how soon they too would be abducted and consumed by the ancient evil plaguing the universe.

Even people in other dimensions of the multiverse were impressed with Shepard’s ability to ignore impending doom in favor of resolving minor dust-ups. “You just don’t see that kind of dedication to trivial matters anymore,” said Arvena Thelas, a Dunmer commoner living in the Cyrodiil city of Anvil. “The last time I remember anything like that was when the Hero of Kvatch took time off from closing demon-filled Oblivion Gates that were threatening to bring about the end of the world, in order to help me a problem I had with the rats in my basement.”

Commander Shepard could not be reached for comment, as she had once again placed her primary mission on hold to share a bottle of brandy with her ship’s doctor.

Local

$200 Million Nanosuit Used Primarily to Throw Turtle Around

Lingshan Island, South China Sea — A U.S. Army Delta Force team member, dispatched to combat North Korean Forces who had taken over an island in the South China Sea and abducted several archeologists working there, has been using his taxpayer-funded, $200 million combat Nanosuit primarily to throw a turtle around.

“This is so cool,” said Lieutenant Jake Dunn, codenamed “Nomad”, as he picked up the large turtle for the third time, set his Nanosuit to maximum strength, and then threw the turtle as far as he could. “I can really chuck that thing far.”

“Wow, I can jump really high, too,” he added. “This is bitchin’.”

The Nanosuit, built for the military by Crynet Systems and funded with U.S. tax dollars, has a number of high-tech features, including heightened armor and a cloaking device, designed to turn its wearer into an elite super-soldier capable of infiltrating enemy forces and surviving extreme combat situations. It can also give the wearer the ability to throw things, like turtles, much further than an ordinary human could.

Dunn held still, allowing the suit to recharge its strength feature, before picking up and throwing the now-deceased turtle one more time. “Awesome,” he said. He tried out another feature, and listened as the male voice in his earpiece announced “Maximum speed.”

“Why do computer voices always have British accents?” he wondered aloud. Then he sprinted forward, seeing how fast he could run with the device enabled. “Cool,” he said. “That’s really fast.”

Continuing to ignore his his mission objectives, Dunn, who had not had a previous opportunity to test out his nano-powered armor, also tried picking up and throwing various other objects, such as a wooden crate and a log. “I also love how that when I pick something up, I can look down and see my hands holding it, no matter what it is.”

“Man,” he said. “I bet that cost a lot.”

Paddling around the ocean a few minutes later to see if the “maximum speed” setting made him a faster swimmer, Lieutenant Dunn and the Nanosuit were eaten by sharks.

Opinion

I Don’t Know What I’ll Do With All This Used Armor I Keep Buying

By Bogrum Gro-Galash, Innkeeper

As innkeeper of The Lonely Suitor Lodge in Bravil, in Southern Cyrodiil, I’m faced with a number of challenges. Keeping my lodge nice and tidy, my guests happy, and my rooms affordable is tough in this day and age while still managing to turn a profit. It definitely doesn’t help that I keep buying used sets of armor from any hero who walks in the front door.

I don’t know why I do it. I don’t need three pairs of rough leather boots, or two sets of fur gauntlets, or seven chainmail cuirasses. I don’t even go outside the lodge, let alone into the wild where I would need armor, but the moment a hero sprints in after a dungeon raid or a cavern crawl and dumps off some rusty iron greaves, there I am, handing over the hard-earned cash that I could have spent buying new mattresses for the guest rooms or improving my wine collection. I don’t know what my problem is. I just don’t know.

And it’s not just armor, either. Swords, shields, arrows, clothing, repair hammers, wolf pelts… whatever he’s got, I’ll buy it without hesitation. I draw the line at stolen items, sure, but if it’s a set of bloody fur gauntlets he’s yanked off some dead Khajiit bandit or a flawed pearl he found in a Altmer Conjurer’s cave, I’m more than happy to plunk down top dollar for them. I wish I knew why.

And don’t get me started on the so-called “potions” he sells me. He’ll buy me out of all my bread and vegetables, then stand there mashing them up with his mortar and pestle, right in front of me, and sell me back the resulting glop. Fifty-seven Restore Fatigue potions that taste like pumpkins and cheese? I don’t need my fatigue restored that badly. My patience, sure, but not my fatigue. And yet, I buy them all.

I’ll admit, sometimes he’ll sell me something nice. I like Soul Gems: I just think they’re pretty, even without souls in them. I’m halfway through reading the four volumes of The Argonian Account books he sold me, and I’m enjoying the story so far. The Dwarven helmet I purchased is certainly nice to look at: it’s wonderfully crafted and ornate, but I’ll honestly never wear it. I don’t even know where it comes from. We don’t have any Dwarves around here.

What is my problem? Am I too nice? Can’t I say no? I’ve spent my entire life savings purchasing the stuff he brings in here, and I’ve had to use two of my spare rooms just to store it all. Any more of this, and I’ll wind up living in the street, sharing a bedroll with Penniless Olvus. At least I know he won’t try to sell me anything.

World

Health Pack Reform Divides Nation

Washington, D.C. — The administration’s ambitious plan for health pack reform continues to stir up controversy and has divided the nation seemingly down the middle. The proposal includes provisions to provide free health packs not just to lone heroes on world-saving missions, but also to average citizens such as taxi drivers, bartenders, merchants, prostitutes, farmers, security guards, helicopter pilots, priests, and even scientists who stand around forever fiddling with some vague bit of technical equipment without ever actually fixing or activating it.

Some herald the plan to provide health pack benefits to all citizens, and not just to heavily muscled heroic commandos on top-secret missions, as the mark of a more responsible society. Many others feel threatened by the reform, wondering just who will truly benefit and who will be hurt.

“I mean, where does it end?” one gruff, sardonic hero asked while rappelling from a helicopter to the rooftop of a skyscraper that had been seized by a battalion of cloned super-soldiers. “Why should everyone get free health packs? Heroes are the only one who really need them. I’m the one infiltrating this skyscraper, I’m the one who will be clearing its rooms and hallways of heavily armed clone commandos, I’m the one who will be haunted by horrifying visions of a demonic little girl with hair in her face.”

“Looks like they were expecting me,” he muttered grimly, as he landed on the roof and began spraying bullets at attacking enemies. “Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah. You start giving free heath packs to office workers and hot-dog vendors and soon there won’t be any left for me. And I’m the one who needs them.”

“Look, we’re not asking anyone to take health packs away from space marines or reluctant saviors of the human race,” one construction worker said, wearing a hardhat and carrying a lunch pail as he walked back and forth between a construction site and his truck, over and over again. “They clearly need them, what with the overwhelming odds and lack of effective cover systems they encounter. We’re just asking that normal people be given access to health packs too.”

“The average citizen won’t be spearheading an attack on a fascist regime or battling through a post-apocalyptic wasteland,” said another construction worker, who looked and sounded identical to the first. “But we still live and work in those places. We still take damage and lose health, not just from mutated boars or inter-dimensional demons, but often from the very heroes who are purportedly there to save us. ”

He waved his lunch pail at a group of pedestrians walking in circles around the construction site. “Who among us hasn’t taken a stray bullet from a hero’s gun, or been hit by a car the hero was driving, or taken splash damage from a hero’s grenade? Sometimes I even think they hurt us deliberately. That’s why we need health packs.”

Despite conflicting opinions on the matter, the impact of the new plan is sure to be felt by nearly everyone, especially health pack manufacturers such as Heal-U-Kwik Industries, who has been leading the charge in opposing the new health pack legislation.

“As the nation’s largest supplier of health packs, heath kits, heath vials, stimpacks, med-kits, medpaks, syringes, syrettes, healing stations, mediguns, bandages, and painkillers, Heal-U-Kwik Industries stands in direct opposition to this new plan and the damage it will cause,” a Heal-U-Kwik spokesman said.

“We have a hard enough time as it is turning a profit,” he continued. “Our business consists of distributing free health packs throughout war-torn urban environments, and sometimes even to other planets and dimensions, for brave lone heroes to use at no cost to themselves. If we have to provide health packs to absolutely everyone, it will destroy our already poorly thought-out business model.”

Some are quick to point out that many societies have successfully made affordable health benefits available to all of their citizens, such as the underwater city of Rapture, founded by industrialist Andrew Ryan. In addition to various snacks and beverages containing healing properties that are scattered throughout the city, health stations in Rapture can be used, for a small fee, by anyone, be they lone protagonists with shadowy pasts, or insane, mutilated splicers who scream profane gibberish while crab-walking across the ceiling.

“I think the system here works great,” said one of Rapture’s splicers. “I honestly don’t know what all the fuss is about topside. I think a society should provide some sort of health pack benefits for its citizens. Here in Rapture, I can use the health stations if I really need to, and I’m profoundly grateful for that. There’s even a way to get around the fee if you’re clever.”

“SEMEN! SEMEN ON EVERYTHING!” she added, scuttling backwards up a wall.

The elite government operative invading the clone-occupied skyscraper isn’t convinced, however, and feels he never will be.

“Next thing you know, all of my enemies will be able to pick up health packs, too, making them much harder to kill. Soon, heroes won’t be able to enjoy the benefits of free, instantly healing health packs because someone else will already have used them.”

“So, next time the country isn’t saved from the threat of evil, mind-controlled clone soldiers, don’t come crying to me.”

Local

Hostages Rescued By Courageous Racist

Montescaglioso, Italy — After a daring daylight raid on a small town in the Matera Province of Italy, four employees of DSB Computer Solutions expressed joy and relief for having been freed from the clutches of their terrorist captors, as well as admitting a great deal of discomfort about the nature of one of their rescuers, an outspoken racist.

“I mean, he was amazing,” said one hostage after the ordeal. “He took out two terrorists right in front of me like they were nothing. His skill, his reflexes, his bravery under fire… it was as breathtaking as his intense hatred for black people.”

“He threw one grenade but dropped, like, twenty N-Bombs,” he added.

According to the four rescued hostages, they were abducted from their place of work moments earlier and were held in small rooms in the Italian town, two upstairs, two downstairs. Frozen with fear, they awaited rescue from their eight terrorist captors who never issued demands or requests for payment. Counter-terrorists moved in with an aggressive plan to free the hostages using deadly force, hoping to complete their mission in under five minutes. Gunfire erupted almost immediately, racial slurs shortly after.

“We heard a lot of shooting,” another hostage said. “Automatic weapons fire from all over the town. And a lot of yelling. Curses, offensive slurs against minorities, invitations to copulate with one’s own mother. All the shooting was scary, sure, but the language was just revolting.”

“I don’t want to single him out, seeing as how he saved my life. But while the other counter-terrorists were saying things like “Go go go!” and “Enemy spotted!”, this guy was just N-this and N-that, and saying ‘fag’ every third word. Just spewing hate-speech, start-to-finish.”

Seven of the eight counter-terrorists were eventually killed, leaving just a single soldier to deal with the remaining four terrorists. That soldier, known only as “GoblinCock69,” quickly and efficiently took out three of the terrorists before finding the terrified, somewhat uncomfortable hostages and leading them into the courtyard.

“Yeah, I was happy to see him,” one hostage said. “Then I realized he was the one doing all the name-calling. I wanted to get out of there, and follow him to the rescue zone, but I have to admit, after hearing what he said about blacks and homosexuals, I was tempted to take my chances with the terrorists.”

“The guy is no fan of the Jews, either,” he added.

As the hostages were led to safety, the final terrorist was killed, shot twice in the head as GoblinCock69 profanely implied he was gay, developmentally disabled, and of Mexican ancestry, all in the same sentence.

“It’s a weird situation, definitely,” said another freed hostage. “I mean, I owe him my life. Absolutely. Yet, I’m really reluctant to thank him because he’s clearly an ignorant, hate-filled jerk. He’s a hero, but if I’m ever taken hostage again, which I admit is quite likely, I really hope he doesn’t show up to rescue me.”

When questioned about his profane language and hate-speech, GoblinCock69 issued a curt invitation to perform fellatio on him. Then he promptly left town.

Lifestyle

Sim’s Huge, Spacious Home Detrimentally Huge, Spacious

Sunset Valley — Sim Citizen Stiles McGraw, after saving for years to afford his huge, cavernous dream home, was dismayed to discover that his new house is so vast and spacious that it’s destroying his lifestyle.

“I’m miserable,” he said through an interpreter. “By the time I get out of bed in the morning, walk to the kitchen to eat, then walk to the bathroom to wash up, half the day is gone. I missed work yesterday because I wanted to paint on my easel on the deck, and by the time I got out there it was already noon.”

“Last week, I was swimming in the pool, and got tired. The bedroom is so far away I only made it halfway there before collapsing to the floor and falling asleep in the foyer. This house is just way too big.”

McGraw, who worked his way up from a lowly coffee courier to vice president at Sunset Valley’s Office Building, spent years saving his hard-earned Simoleans, dreaming of someday buying a mansion on beautiful Summerhill Court. “I had it all planned out. It would be two stories, nice car in the driveway, hot-tub out back, telescope on the balcony, see-through walls and roof… it was going to be heaven.”

Unfortunately, the reality turned out much differently. “My bedroom is upstairs, and getting down to the kitchen in the morning seems to take forever. Then, I have to prepare an elaborate meal, walk it over to the dining room table, put it down, turn, pull out my chair, sit down, and eat. After that, I’m clearing the dishes, washing them, then it’s off to the bathroom. It’s, like, mid-afternoon by that point. I’m so frustrated I just want to yell and wave my arms at the sky.”

“I mean, there are things I want to have time to do with my life. I bought a new painting for the den, and I haven’t even found time to walk over, look at it, and start applauding. If I want to use my computer to play some games while giggling and hooting, I have to carve out an entire afternoon just to get to my desk. I think I was better off sharing a much smaller house with four roommates on Sunnyside Boulevard.”

McGraw is finding that his spacious new mansion is affecting his social life as well. “I met this cute policewoman one night after someone attempted to rob my mansion. I chatted with her, and called her the next day. She came over, and we talked about how we both liked sailboats and didn’t like tennis rackets. We flirted a bit, I gave her a massage, we kissed a little. I thought, wow, this could definitely lead to some WooHoo.”

He paused, sadly. “But it took so long to get her upstairs to my bedroom, that by the time we got to the bed she had to go to the bathroom. When she finally got done, I was hungry, and while I was headed to the kitchen to make some food, she went out to dance to music on the deck. Hours later, I finally got her back upstairs, but she was tired and wanted to leave, and I needed to use the bathroom so badly I urinated on the floor. It kind of killed the mood.”

What does McGraw plan to do now that his house hasn’t lived up to his expectations? “I’d like to sell it, honestly,” he admitted. “I’m just not sure who would want it. Showing it to a prospective buyer would take all day, and they might get turned off by how huge and inconvenient it is. All the pee stains on the floor aren’t going to help, either. For now, I guess I’m stuck here.”

Local

Elite Soldier Accidentally Fires Rocket, Injures Self

Dushanbe, Tajikistan — A highly trained U.S. military commando reported injuring himself this morning while on a dangerous covert mission that has become a race against time itself. The incident occurred when the commando inadvertently fired a missile that exploded in his vicinity, badly wounding him.

“It was an accident,” the commando explained. “I thought I was holding my binoculars but it turned out I was holding my missile launcher.”

Covered in blood and riddled with shrapnel, the covert agent, who had become separated from his squad late last night when their transport plane was shot down, described the incident.

“Well, I wanted to take out my binoculars to have a look at the enemy base over there. So, I was cycling through all my weapons, really quickly,” the lone-wolf military veteran explained. “You know, taking out my pistol, putting it away, taking out my shotgun, putting it away, taking out my [sub-machine gun], putting it away. I thought I’d gotten all the way to my binoculars, but I guess I stopped on my rocket launcher, which I always take out just prior to taking out my binoculars.”

Believing he was holding his high-tech. lightweight binoculars and not his 38 pound FGM-148 Javelin guided missile launcher, he quickly depressed what he thought was the button that would activate the 18x magnification zoom feature of his digital spyglass.

Instead of getting a close-up look at the distant enemy military base, however, he was surprised to find he had in fact fired a missile. The missile immediately collided with the waist-high stone wall he’d been taking cover behind, and exploded. The explosion severely injured the black-ops commando, who had been appointed to his mission by none other than the President of the United States himself in a desperate, zero-hour gambit to prevent a nuclear holocaust. Shrapnel tore through the commando’s body-armor and flesh, nearly killing him.

“It’s not a huge deal,” the gruff operative said. ” If I just wait five, maybe ten seconds, I’ll fully recover from my injuries. My breathing will return to normal, those blood-spatters on my eyeballs will fade, my heartbeat will stop throbbing in my ears. It just sucks because that was my last rocket and I’m pretty sure there’s a helicopter that comes out when I get near that base.”

He paused, already looking healthier. “Sometimes I do something similar when I’m in a rush. Like, I’ll mean to open an ammo crate but instead I’ll turn on my flashlight. Last night, I had stolen this jeep and was driving at top speed through a village. I meant to pull out my map to see where I was, but instead I accidentally jumped out of the jeep. Dove right into the street, at about seventy miles an hour. Man, that hurt.”

He laughed, seeming to possess fond memories of the incident that had resulted in two bystanders being killed by the out-of-control jeep. “I had to go all the way back to the middle of the village to attempt my daring, high-speed escape again, too,” he said, shaking his head.

“Mainly, I just feel a little stupid about mistaking the zoom function on my binoculars for the launch trigger on my enormous shoulder-mounted laser-guided anti-tank weapon. ”

“But hey,” the lone hope for the free world added. “It happens to the best of us.”

Life Stuff

The Quitter, Part 2

If there were a children’s book about me called What Makes Christopher Go?!? it would be two pages long and contain colorful illustrations of a pack of cigarettes and a cup of coffee. Over the past two weeks I’ve had neither, and it has severely affected my ability to, shall we say, go.

See, I had planned to do a daily running commentary, to mine my quit-smoking misery for laughs, but frankly, I’ve been miserable to the point of not being able to laugh about it. It’s been a rough 14 days, and my original plan is completely in shambles, but I’ve still managed to not smoke.

The plan was three-pronged. First, to not buy cigarettes using my natural procrastination. That’s been working fine. In fact, I’ve been using my natural procrastination to do nothing whatsoever. I knew I could count on it!

The second prong was to to push-ups every time I wanted a cigarette, in hopes of punishing myself into not wanting cigarettes. This worked pretty well for the first couple days. Early on in the process, the desire to smoke hits hard and often, probably once an hour. But it only hits briefly. The desire is overwhelming but only lasts for a few minutes, then goes away until the next one.

Problem is, after the first few days, the sudden, painful pangs go away and are replaced by low-level yet constant urges. It’s like going from an occasional hard smack in the face, which hurts but quickly fades, to what amounts to someone flicking you in the earlobe, non-stop, all day, every day. It doesn’t hurt, but it’s a constant annoyance and it eventually wears you down to the point that you want to crawl into a ditch and die. It’s sort of like a car-alarm going off a few blocks away: even though the noise is distant, soon it’s pretty much the only thing you can hear.

So, that’s been fun. Right now, if I did push-ups every time I wanted to smoke, I’d be doing push-ups roughly 24 hours a day. I’d be ripped, sure, but I’d probably also be dead.

Finally, the third prong was to substitute sunflower seeds for cigarettes. And I have done this. I have eaten so many sunflower seeds that the inside of my mouth is basically a tattered, stinging ruin. The sodium and sharp shells have torn and gouged and shredded and destroyed my mouth to the point where — no exaggeration — I can’t actually whistle anymore. Each seed is like pouring salt in a wound because it is literally pouring salt in a wound. My mouth is one big injury. I was actually reduced to buying jello because it was the only thing I could eat without causing myself pain.

Also, a weird side-effect of quitting smoking is that, for some reason, coffee now tastes and smells like liquid skunk shit. It’s bizarre. I’m almost physically incapable of allowing coffee into my mouth. This means, along with the nicotine withdrawal I’ve also got daily headaches from the lack of caffeine. Plus, I used to love coffee. It’s like I lost custody of coffee in my divorce with cigarettes. The entire experience is quite exhausting.

But, apart from the pain of withdrawal and the pain of my shredded mouth and the pain of headaches, I’m doing swell!