When I am King: Racing Gear

When I am King...

We will all wear racing gear.

I love the fact that everyone on a casual bike ride wears a racing outfit, even though they’re not actually racing, unless it’s to the nearest Starbucks. “Last one there buys venti lattes!”

I think I actually see these spandex gangs more often at the cafe than in transit. But maybe that's just because they move so fast on the roads that I miss them.

Meanwhile, these racers are decked out in shirts so bright they don’t need headlights and shorts so tight they sing soprano around the turns. Their wraparound sunglasses can catch all of the bugs that will splatter at the blistering speeds of up to 10 mph that they’ll achieve on the way to the cafe, and they wear racing helmets that look like a silver slug, stretched slightly in the breeze. Their shoes clip into the pedals to ensure that if they are ever in an accident, they will avoid an painful injury by being clicked inseparably onto the bike thus dying immediately.

The best part about bike footwear is that it's basically tap shoes with clips. So when they do go down, they’ll go down dancing.

This entire kaleidoscopic ensemble is topped off by enough logos to populate a shopping mall. Real logo’d apparel is bad enough. You know the ones: the shirts, shorts, caps, and jockstraps that real athletes (that is, athletes we pay to see) wear to indicate that although they’ve never used the products, the companies that put them there pay them millions of dollars for the rights to make the athletes prostitute themselves.

The logos worn by the weekend workouters are somehow worse; they pay way more than a shirt is worth for the privilege of wearing the logo of one of these companies, so that the companies can turn around and pay it to the prostituting athlete, who then inspires fans and sycophants to go out and pay even more for such a shirt. Don’t they realize that the athlete isn’t wearing that shirt by choice, but because of her debilitating gambling habit? Or his massive alimony payments? If the athlete had a choice, they’d wear something a little more understated. Like solid gold.

Meanwhile, other sports aren’t suffering the same fate. I continue to see people out jogging with nothing more than a pair of shorts and functional shoes. Or out playing basketball in shorts and a t-shirt. Or shooting darts in the bar with nothing more than a dribbled-on polo shirt and a huge buzz. Clearly, these other sports have some work to do.

When I am King, all sports will require appropriately overachieving apparel. Runners will be required to wear shoes with wings and fake motion-blur. Basketball players will wear tank tops and shorts that hang down to the tops of their high-top shoes. Pickup games of touch football will require full tackling uniforms with mesh jerseys and a cooler of Gatorade to dump on the winning coach. And hockey players will be required to sport blood on their uniforms (but that requirement is easily fulfilled within the first couple of fightsplays).

And all uniforms must be covered in logos. All sporting participants must look like Indy 500 cars, apart from the speed, the endurance, and the sponsorship. And we’ll all wear tap shoes, because everyone loves a nice tap routine.


When I am King: More Demerit Badges

When I am King...

Boy Scouts will get better merit badges.

This is a continuation of my previous Demerit Badges diatribe. Anything worth saying is worth saying again. And again. Until you run out of material.

Last time, the merit badges of Television and Couch Potato focused on important skills that scouts learn and use at home. These skills will benefit the scouts as they grow into men and take on the mantle of laziness and sloth that our society expects.

Someone famous could have said, "We are defined not only by our actions, but also by our interactions." This time, we highlight badges that the scouts can achieve in the real world, as they interact with peers, adults, and strangers. These badges represent the best that scouts can be in a confusing world.


Getting out in the wilderness and exploring nature is what scouting is known for. But a well-rounded Boy Scout can be so much less. This merit badge will cover the important skills of today’s introverted geek: self-absorption, social awkwardness, and a disturbing attraction to computers.

1. Don’t talk to anyone. If you have to, reply in single. Word. Sentences.
2. Play with computers all day and night. If there is no computer available, pretend there’s one and type on it.
3. Make beeping sounds like a video game.
4. Pretend you’re a robot car for a week.
5. Learn pi to 28 places.
6. Meet with a merit badge counselor and stare at them awkwardly for the entire session, without saying anything.

Related Awards:
Computers, Binary, Anti-Socialism

Helping the Old Lady Cross the Street

Since the beginning of the Boy Scout program, the act of assisting an elderly woman across a busy street has represented the most important elements of what makes a great Boy Scout: kindness, selflessness, and annoying level of nosiness. This merit badge will focus exclusively on this fundamental skill of scouting.

1. Find an old lady. Find a busy street. Bring the two together. This is most easily done by leading the old lady to that street, but some scouts may wish to do it the other way around (this requires the Traffic Cop chit and a whistle).
2. Guide the old lady into the street. Some old ladies may be unwilling. The scout may need to take her hand or, in some situations, handcuff her to you (this requires the Tough Cop merit badge).
3. Guide the old lady safely across the street, getting her hit by no more than 2 cars or trucks. If the old lady is hit by more than two vehicles, you will need to start over, probably with a new old lady.

Related Awards:
Traffic Cop, Tough Cop, Dodgeball


Things I Believe: Thoughts for Friday

Necessity is the Mother of invention. Laziness is the Father.

Money doesn't grow on trees, but is harvested from fertile banks.

No arrest for the wicked.

When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be a bug.


When I am King: Demerit Badges

When I am King...

Scouting achievements will be more realistic.

My son is a Boy Scout, following in the great family tradition of - wait, I wasn’t a Boy Scout. No, he's obviously interested in camping and the outdoors because his family - wait, we hate camping (somehow the combination of sleeping outdoors, in the cold, near either people that are too loud or animals that are too hungry has never appealed to us). Perhaps he's just attracted to the open and liberal social attitude of the Boy Scout organization, a bastion of openness and acceptance in the reality of today's evolving societal and family norms. Or perhaps not.

Okay, search me why he's doing it.

One of the thing that drives the scouts is the skills that they acquire as part of advancing rank, in the form of “merit badges.” This badges are awarded to scouts that learn particular skills and can demonstrate their proficiency to the troop leaders. There are merit badges that range from First Aid to Nuclear Science. You can learn about animals in Mammal Study and then learn how to hunt them down in Rifles.

But I feel, looking through the list of badges, that they are all rather dated. Sure, there are badges on Computers and Robotics, and the traditional Hoop and Stick Games badge was finally retired in 2007. But the current badges do not represent those characteristics of our society which we hold most dear. Where is the Shopping badge? Or the Wasting Time Online badge? And without badges such as these, how can a scout hope to succeed in a society that has come to expect such behavior?

When I am King, Boy Scout merit badges will better reflect the attitudes, values, and achievements of our society. No longer will the scouts produce men of quaint but dated character. Scouts will become shining examples of all that we respect in the world.

Here are a couple of badges that I’m working on:

Television Watching

The Television Watching merit badge introduces a boy scout to this core activity of our society, where he will learn to lose his time, his mind, and his life.

1. Watch television non-stop for 10 days.
2. Describe absolutely nothing that happened in the world during that period.
3. Name three ways in which commercials benefit society. [Retracted]
4. Meet with a merit badge counselor during a commercial break. Fail to meet their eyes, staring instead into the distance with a listless, glazed expression.
5. Be able to hum at least 15 theme show songs and 35 ad jingles.

Related awards:
Couch Potato, Obesity, Teenager

Couch Potato

Taking the time to relax is an important element in a fulfilling life. Extending that time to the exclusion of all productive activity is an art form that can only be appreciated by its active pursuit.

1. Do nothing
2. Get nothing accomplished.
3. Don’t meet with your merit badge counselor. Doing so would prove that you have not yet mastered this skill.

Related awards:
Television Watching, Eating, Sleeping


The Hitchhiker's Guide to Parenting

On the proper raising of children, with respect to the literature provided therein

And so it was, on that seventh day of July, in the year Two Thousand Eleven, that The Book (heretofore referred to as The Book) was given unto a child. And, Forsooth!, the wisdom and mysteries of the ages passed to the next generation. And there was great rejoicing.

Last night, that I realized that my oldest child was perhaps old enough to appreciate the wit and sagacity of that ancient and revered tome, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. One of the greatest things about having kids is trying to force-feed them the same content on which your own misguided life is based. Usually, this ends in disinterest on the part of the kid and great sadness and self-doubt on the part of the parents. Time and disappointment will prove whether this time the decision was merely flawed or completely stupid, but for now it seems like the right thing to have done. Like hopping over barbed wire instead of walking the extra 20 yards to go around a fence.

Douglas Adams’s books are some of my favorites, and are required reading in my chosen field (itinerant geek). The Hitchhiker's Guide series is the perfect combination of humor and science fiction, where by “science fiction” I mean it has a completely irrelevant and nonsensical plot. And by “plot” I mean, well, I don’t care. It’s just funny, dammit.

I should point out that The Book is, I believe, a massive apologia for the PC game, Starship Titanic. The game was written after the massive success of the Hitchhiker’s series, so in true Adams form, he had to go back in time to write the books to make up for the game in advance. So to have the right feeling about the author, you should really enjoy his works in the order in which he produced them: the game first, then the books. That way, you’ll end your relationship with him on a good note. Or, like me, you can read the books first, then play the game, then read the books again to wash the taste of the game out of your brain.

In any case, I hope I’ve just just added another Douglas Adams fan to the planet. Or at least another person that knows that the answer is 42. It's always 42.


Independence Daydreaming

Today is July 4th, a day of special significance here in the U.S. It's a day on which we go to barbecues, drink too much, set off small explosives in dry climates causing untold fire damage, and generally celebrate what it means to be an American.

It's supposedly also the day on which we declared our independence from the evil overlords, our good friends in England.

(That day was also significant because it was the last time that any committee came to any decision on anything, a feat much greater in significance than the actual declaration of independence. Bureaucrats the world over rejoiced this act, then went back to debating important matters of process and lunch menus).

It is my country's independence which I wish to celebrate today. I'm thinking about some of the things that Americans can be thankful for, which could not have happened if we hadn't cast off the yoke of monarchical oppression and donned, instead, the yoke of democratic stalemate that has dominated our political scene ever since.

Here are some of the things that I am thankful for, which could not have happened without our teenage rebellion:

Driving on the right: This confuses me every time I’m in England, the way that everyone is driving on the wrong side of the road. Thank the founding fathers that we don’t have to do it here. Besides the sheer ridiculousness of the habit, it would totally mismatch our cars, which are manufactured with the steering wheels on the left. I'm convinced that this change has saved countless lives and allowed us to be the much lazier drivers that we are.

The weather: Some U.S. states are cold, some are hot, most have varying weather (except Hawaii, the lucky bastards). But none of the states have weather quite as miserable as that in most of England. Who knows what our weather would be like if we’d remained part of the kingdom? Probably something more like Seattle, except without their three days of Summer.

Criminals: Australia, a penal colony (insulting in both purpose and name) inherited the criminals of Jolly Olde England (much jollier for having gotten rid of the convicts). The same thing may have happened to us, which would have been awful because our prisons are already filled to capacity.

Coffee: Say what you want about tea, but there’s nothing as satisfying in the morning as a strong cup of coffee. Tea’s okay every now and then, especially when served with scones or those little tiny sandwiches (how small or their mouths in England?). But on July 4th, we established a democracy upon the firm foundation of coffee. And Starbucks franchising opportunities.

Oh, Canada: Without our stalwart presence below Canada, that ridiculously large land mass would come crashing down on the helpless Caribbean islands and fragile spine of Mexico and Central America. But beyond this important physical support role, our great nation also acts as an important filter between Canada and Mexico, limiting the flow of illegal immigrants coming up from below and illegally reasonably-priced prescription drugs from above. Without these United States, these nations would quibble about these border disputes instead of leaving the quibbling to us. Quibbling is our national pastime, one of the founding principals of the country. Why else would we have established the quibble-maximizing two-party system that drives our elections and daily political discourse?

Language: Many visitors to our country make the same simple mistake: that we speak the same language as those in England. It may sound the same (minus the stuffy accents, ‘cause we’re all jus' common folk here), but it has enough critical differences that make our languages as different as, say, American English and Canadian, eh? In particular, we changed elements that made the language just too darned difficult, like the extraneous ‘u’ in ‘colour’ and the regular use of large words that nobody would ever really use. English would never have achieved the world-wide usage that it has today without these important changes. And without that important adoption of our language, we'd travel even less than we do today, because understanding other languages is just really, like, hard.

These are some my favorite things about our free and independent nation. What are yours?


Things I Believe: Thoughts for Friday

Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Use an egg carton instead. Wicker is useless at protecting the things.

If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen and call 911.

Limitation is the sincerest form of flattening.

It is better to give than to receive IOUs.