Thursday, March 30, 2006

Top 10 Things You Don't Want to Hear while Sitting in a Dentist's Chair

10. "Welcome to the House of Pain."

9. "What time is the hearing on my dental license again?"

8. "Uh oh, we're out of Novocain."

7. "Nurse, did you replace the batteries in the defibrillator after yesterday's incident?"

6. "More disinfectant! Stat!"

5. "Dentures can look quite natural."

4. "Don't worry Doctor, I paid the malpractice insurance bill last month."

3. "So this morning I was performing a rectal exam on one of my cows, and…"

2. "You only chew on one side of your mouth anyway, right?"

1. "Hey! Where'd my ring go?"

Monday, March 27, 2006

America, where everyone is above average

Remember my post a couple months ago about self-esteem? One of the things I wondered about then was why so many people have so little self-esteem while others have so much, even when it doesn't seem particularly warranted. Apparently, too much self-esteem is some sort of national characteristic in the USA. Because News of the Weird reports that "According to a November Washington Post poll (whose results were published in February), 94 percent of Americans said they are 'above average' in honesty, 89 percent 'above average' in common sense, 86 percent 'above average' in intelligence, and 79 percent 'above average' in looks. [Washington Post-AP, 2-5-06] [Washington Post, 2-8-06]"

Sunday, March 26, 2006

I, canis

A few nights ago, I had an erotic dream. It starred me, Nicole Richie, and Paris Hilton. It's a little odd that I would dream about them, since if I had a list of Women I Wish I Could Boink, neither of them would be very high on it. On the other hand, if the list was long enough, I suppose they would make it, probably somewhere in the low hundreds. I guess they're slightly to moderately boinkable.

Anyway, in this dream I met Nicole somewhere or other -- and this was Nicole when she still looked pretty good, by the way, not Nicole now that she's all skinny and anorexic-looking -- and we, um, hit it off pretty well. So I was working on Nicole, and Paris came along and didn't want to be left out, so of course the only hospitable thing to do was to welcome her as well. That's all the details you're gonna get, but it was a very pleasant dream. Of course, the whole idea is very unrealistic, because apparently Nicole and Paris aren't even friends anymore.*

Now, this was one of those really vivid dreams, the kind where everything is not just real, but hyper-real. And it was also one of those dreams where you wake up confused, thinking for a few moments that the dream was real and that everything that happened in the dream really happened. (I'm not the only one who has dreams like that sometimes, am I?)

So I woke up thinking I'd actually had a threesome with Nicole and Paris, and my first thought was, "Wow, that was fun!" That's only natural, I think. My second thought was, "Woops. I probably shouldn't have done that." Because my third thought was, "How do I hide this from my wife and my church?" At that point, my rational mind woke up and said, "Dude, it was just a dream."

Notice anything missing? Like maybe guilt? Shame? Sorrow for betraying my wife and my God? Yeah, I noticed that too. And I've been wondering about it. Would all that ethical stuff have been my fourth thought if my rational mind hadn't woken up when it did and told me it was just a dream? Am I the kind of guy who would cheat and not worry about anything but getting caught? Am I an ethical person? I'd always thought I was a good guy. Now I'm not so sure anymore. Maybe I'm just a dog.

*That's a joke, OK? I realize that Nicole and Paris not being friends anymore is not the most unlikely thing about me having a threesome with them. I mean, they live in L.A., and I don't, for example.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Kabumei: The Art of the Sharpened Hand Grenade

"A brief look at one of the least known (but arguably most effective) ancient forms of Chinese martial arts."

Monday, March 06, 2006

Jury duty: The Further Adventures of Stupendous Rack Girl and Well Hung Man

This is Part 2. Part 1 is here.

Moving right along, Southern Lady talks about the $10 we get paid for coming to jury duty. We can "waive" it if we want. Then the court keeps the money and uses it to buy jury stuff. That's how we got these new chairs last year, she says. I guess they aren't 20-year-old chairs after all. But I'll keep my $10, thank you very much. Southern Lady tells us that there's no smoking or chewing allowed. Chewing? I wonder if they have much of a problem with that. She mentions no chewing again. I guess they do.

Next, we're assigned to groups of 12. The groups are named after dogs, Poodle, Lab, Mutt, and so on. I suppose it's because they're easy to remember. It might be a bit of a strain on your typical juror if the groups had more difficult names, like Group A, or Group 1, or something complicated like that. We're called at random by first name and juror number to get assigned to a group. Stupendous Rack Girl is one of the first people called. I learn her secret identity: it's Jessica. I wonder if her last name is Rabbit; there's more than a passing resemblance. She's Juror Number 33. If she'd been Juror Number 69, I suppose I would have died of sheer comedic happiness. She's is in the Poodle group. I'm in the Mutt group. I ask her if she's ever seen Lady and the Tramp. OK, I don't really do that either.

Southern Lady finishes talking. She's going to show us a video so we can learn all about serving on a jury. The video begins with a shot of the Statue of Liberty. The narrator informs us that America is a diverse country, that Our Court System is fair to everyone, and that juries come from all of us. The guy sitting next to me, Peter, Number 8, is watching his own DVD again. Very conscientious. The video's narrator comes on screen. "Hi," he says, "I'm Tim O'Brian. You might remember me from such films as Democracy: Another Name for Mob Rule and Washington, DC: It's Not Just a Slum, It's Our Nation's Capital." OK, he doesn't really say the part about his other films. But he really does say "Hi, I'm Tim O'Brian."

Tim tells us about the Declaration of Independence, which is The Cornerstone Of Our Democracy, and the Constitution, which is The Blueprint For Our Whole System Of Government. Then he introduces us to Roberto and Mary. They were "people just like you and me, until something they didn't expect happened." Gosh, I'm on the edge of my seat. Roberto's a harmless-looking little Hispanic guy. Mary's a rather snotty-looking middle-aged white woman. She gets called for jury duty. She whines about it over the telephone. The nameless official-sounding voice on the other end tells her she's "obligated" to serve. Mary decides to Do The Right Thing and serves on a jury. She explains all about being a juror. Jurors, she tells us, decide cases based on "the information they are given, which is called the 'evidence.'" "Witnesses" are "invited by the court" to "tell facts they know about the case."

But it turns out Roberto's not so harmless after all. He's been arrested for battery, and Mary's on his jury. Um, did nobody producing the video notice that making the Hispanic guy the defendant and putting the white lady on the jury kind of reinforces racist stereotypes? Apparently not. But it's all good. Roberto gets to have a lawyer and an interpreter, and I'm sure Mary is fair. My attention wanders. The video ends.

It's time to wait until they call us up for a trial. Stupendous Rack Girl gets up to go to the restroom. She looks good from behind too. Not stupendous, but good. I read my book. I try to watch CNN, but I'm too far away from the TV. I get up and go to the vending machine and get a soda. On the way back, I get a glimpse of Peter, Number 8's, DVD player. He's watching the Montel Williams Show. Yeah. Why would anyone watch Montel Williams on DVD? Out of all the DVDs in all the DVD stores in all the world, why does Peter, Number 8, bring a Montel Williams DVD to watch on jury duty? One of life's little mysteries.

At 10:10, Southern Lady stands up and updates us on the status of the trials. One is still on, and the other is negotiating some stuff, but she's not real sure what's going on. I read; I stare into space. Stupendous Rack Girl comes back again, faithfully following her breasts into the room. I read; I stare into space; I watch Stupendous Rack Girl, unfortunately only from behind now. At 10:22, Southern Lady gets up again. A defendant has failed to appear, so that trial is off. No one had bothered to call down to Southern Lady and tell her; she'd had to call them. She's a little miffed, but in a polite Southern Lady kind of way. The other trial is still negotiating something or other; if it doesn't go ahead, we can go home.

More waiting. More reading, more staring, more watching. At 10:45, Southern Lady takes a phone call. This may be it. Everyone tries to hear what she's saying. OK, she says, OK, I'll tell them. Everyone starts packing up before she's even off the phone. Southern Lady gets up and tells us that the other case is going to go ahead, but before a judge, not a jury. Nobody's listening. All we care about is that we can leave. It's a bit of an anti-climax, but we jurors all feel good to know that our ordeal is over our service to our community is complete, for the next 24 months anyway. God Bless America.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Jury duty: The Adventures of Stupendous Rack Girl and Well Hung Man

A couple of days ago I had to go to jury duty. I used to always try to get out of it, but a few years ago they changed the system so that you only have to serve for "one day or one trial." No more having to hang around for a week; you go down to the courthouse, and if you don't get on a jury on your first day, you can go home. If you do get on a jury, well, most trials in the county circuit court only take a day or two, so it's no big deal. I don't bother trying to get out of it anymore.

Anyway, I go down to the courthouse Wednesday morning at 8:30 like I'm supposed to. I go inside and look for signs that say "Jury." I'm all looking around at signs, so I don't make eye contact with the security people. I don't see what I'm looking for, so I look away from the signs and I start towards the guards to ask them where to go, when I see "Jury" out of the corner of my eye. So just in the very instant I make eye contact with a guard, I veer off in another direction, towards the sign. I wonder if that might have looked kind of suspicious. I glance back as I head in the direction the sign points, and all the guards have their hands near their guns. I hear a little "pop" as one of them unsnaps the button on his holster. It's probably just a coincidence.

I go down the stairs and see a sign that says "Jury Assembly." It points to more stairs. I go down those too. There's another sign. More stairs. So finally I'm like 40 stories underground, and there it is: "Jury Assembly Room." Considering our location in the building, "Dungeon" would seem more appropriate, but this probably says something about where jurors fit into the courtroom hierarchy: at the bottom. I go in, and there are a couple of tables with ladies behind them. Lady No. 1 says, "What's your juror number?" I tell her I'm Juror Number 24, and she checks me off her list and takes some paperwork from me. She gives me some of it back and says I shouldn't throw it away in the courthouse. It has my name and address on it, and I want to be careful of identity theft. There are lots of unsavory characters around, she says, and she doesn't just mean the lawyers. A lawyer joke. In the courthouse. How unexpected. Ha-ha.

I go on into the room, which is big and full of about 60 people. Bricks and wood paneling. Gray carpet. Rows of 20-year-old maroon chairs with black steel legs. I love what you've done with the place. At least the chairs are padded. There are two TVs, tuned to CNN -- no Fox News here, thank you very much, not in this town. There's also a bookcase, with stacks of magazines and about four dozen Reader's Digest Condensed Books. Wait -- what? That's right, four dozen Reader's Digest Condensed Books. I have to take a closer look. The dates on their spines range from about 1957 to 1975. I recognize very few of the titles. It's kind of sad -- 20 years of forgotten bestsellers, and 30 years since they've been read. Did their authors dream of immortality? Did they think that making it into Reader's Digest Condensed Books would mean people would always read their books? But enough musing -- this is a happy post.

So I sit down in the back and look around at the other jurors. Most of them are old like me, 30s and 40s, and beyond. There's lots of grey hair around. The dress is mostly sort of "business casual" -- hardly anybody in this town wears a suit or even a tie anyway -- but some people seem to take it a little too far. There are people in jeans and t-shirts, and even one guy in shorts. I wonder if a judge will send him home to change.

One of the few young people is a girl in her early 20s who comes in a bit late. She's wearing khaki pants, a white shirt and an unzipped black jacket. Her jacket is unzipped, I'm pretty sure, because she can't zip it up. Her breasts are too big for that. Her chest is amazing. Stupendous. Her breasts enter the room about three minutes before she does. She's not fat, mind you, just phat. I immediately name her in my mind: Stupendous Rack Girl. Sounds like a superhero, doesn't it? We could be superheroes together: "The Adventures of Stupendous Rack Girl and Well Hung Man." I raise my hand. "Um, can I be on jury with her, please?" OK, I don't really do that. But I think it.

We all sit around for awhile. People read books -- uncondensed books -- and magazines, they watch CNN. The guy sitting next to me watches a portable DVD player with headphones. Only two people are having a conversation. I wonder if they know each other already. At 8:40, one of the ladies gets up and turns off the TVs. She starts talking to us in a soft Southern accent, I do declare. She talks about the "one day or one trial" thing. They have two trials scheduled for that day. Neither one is expected to take more than a day. She tells us about parking, and that we can get a voucher to pay for it if we parked in the official lot according to the instructions we got in the mail. Stupendous Rack Girl raises her hand. She says she couldn't park in the designated lot because she has an oversized vehicle. Southern Lady apologizes. I lose the train of their conversation, because I'm thinking, Stupendous Rack Girl has an oversized vehicle, she needs a King Cab just to fit behind the wheel, she doesn't need an airbag, heh-heh-heh.

(To be continued…)

Thursday, March 02, 2006