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Does anyone else find it extremely ironic that the last Taliban stronghold has fallen on December 7th, 2001, the 60th anniversary of Pearl Harbor?

Kind of makes you wonder if, indeed, the Universe has a sense of humor after all.

Each story I read about our men and women over in Afghanistan brings a surge of pride. The latest: Teams of "hunter-killer" Marines are driving around Kandahar in Humvees, looking for Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters. They're finding them. And destroying them.

Now, of course, comes the hard part. We can pound the caves with fuel-air explosives and bunker busters and every bomb we've got, but that doesn't end the terrorism. There are still thousands of murderers in dozens of countries that need to be rooted out and destroyed. I live 12 miles west of Ground Zero. When the wind is right, I can smell the still-burning fires. The wind was right two days ago. Montclair smelled like three-day-old cigar smoke.

If we stop now, a day may come when I have to leave my home because a terrorist set off a dirty bomb or a suitcase nuke. We can't have that, and we can't live like that. As the President said, this is going to be a long war. This is only the endgame of the first phase.--MAY



Random acts of greetness

Nope, that isn't a misspelling of "greatness" in the title. I just decided to start saying hello randomly to a new user via that user's city (which shows up in the web stats).

This morning's greeting: Hello, Minneapolis! Welcome to my weblog.

Hm. I've just seen the flaw in my logic. What if the new user's ISP address is Minneapolis, but s/he is really calling from St. Paul? Won't that make me look bad? Or, worse, yet, just plain wrong? Hm. This is a conundrum. Ah. I know. I'll blame it on a terrorist plot.

All right. Now, when I say hello to you via a city that isn't yours, but is close to you, don't get upset. It's not my fault. It's the fault of those sleeper terrorist cells that John Ashcroft keeps warning us about.

Who knew that besides trying to blow us up, they'd be discrediting the author of Iseema Bin Laden's diaries?--MAY



To write, perchance to write

Uh-oh. It's the dreaded writer's blog. No, it's the dreaded witer's block. Actually, it isn't dreaded so much as endured, because I really don't lie awake bed at night thinking, "Ohmigod, what will happen to me if I can't write a blog tomorrow?" Or "What if I've run out of words?"

That's actually a theory some writers have. You have a certain amount of words in you, and when they're all out, that's it. You're done. Turn in your writing tools, that's a wrap.

I have a lot of theories about writing. I also have a vivid picture of exactly what my writing source looks like. It's a cauldron. A big, black metal, bubbling cauldron. I'm an unconscious writer, meaning that I rarely plot out stories. I get an idea, and one of two things happen: I sit down immediately and write it out, or I think about it and decide it's not quite ready yet. So it goes back into the cauldron until it's done, in which case I sit down and write it out. My theory is that when my stories are ready to be written, they bubble to the top of the cauldron and, oh, I don't know, out my ears or something. The other ones just swish around the pot, waiting their turn.

The best kinds of stories, though, are the ones I call "Lightning from God". Those are the ideas that launch so fully-formed from my head that they force me to drop whatever I'm doing and just sit down and write, longhand and on paper if I must. They come out fully-formed, like Athena from the head of Zeus. Hm. I think I just realized why my subconscious has been calling them "Lightning from God."

Iseema's diary was a lightning bolt that struck me during dinner, but I made it wait until I was through eating before I tackled it. Fans of Mark Twain might see a little of "The Diary of Adam and Eve" in it. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Nok-Hockey calls out to me

You know, about ten years ago, this same time of year, I was walking through a Toys 'r' Us store and saw a Nok-Hockey set. A wave of nostalgia came over me, and I bought it. For myself, not as a holiday present for any kids. But then I realized that I had no one to play it with, so I wound up giving it to my friend's kids as a Christmas present, which would at least let me play with it a few times. Well, Monday night, I was walking through a store and saw a Nok-Hockey set. I bought it. History repeats itself.

I had a Nok-Hockey set from the time I was about 11. I'd loved playing it in camp but didn't get a chance to do it much, as all the bigger kids hogged the board. So I think during sixth grade, I got it for Chanuka. And proceeded to become the Nok-Hockey champion of the neighborhood. I kicked ass in Nok-Hockey. When we moved to Maplewood a couple of years later and made a bunch of new friends, one of them saw my set in the cellar and wanted to play. I told him sure, but be ready to get his butt beat. That, of course, got all the kids in the neighborhood up in arms and bragging about how good they were in Nok-Hockey. "It's my set," I told them. "I'm really good at it. None of you can beat me." They insisted. So I wound up challenging the entire neighborhood, which turned out to be, oh, my two brothers and half a dozen other boys and girls.

I beat 'em all. The only one who came close to winning was my older brother, who came within, oh, eight points, I think.

Ah, the glory days of youth. I won't be looking for a new group of kids to challenge, though. I'm giving the Nok-Hockey set to Sorena for Christmas. And I'll give her lessons on how to beat the kids in the neighborhood.--MAY



Exclusive! The diary of Iseema bin Laden!

We here at have pulled off the journalistic coup of the 21st century! We've gotten exclusive rights to the diary of one of Our Buddy Bin's brothers, Iseema bin Laden!


That global conspiracy thing

You know, yesterday's blog got me feeling a bit guilty. I haven't been honest with you. I have an admission to make.

Yes, I am part of that international global Jewish conspiracy, and I hereby admit to being one of the people responsible for all of the following events:

  • The disappearance of Amelia Earhart
  • Global warming
  • George W. Bush winning Florida
  • Framing O.J. Simpson
  • The destruction of the Colossus of Rhodes
  • Gary Coleman becoming a TV star (I really apologize for that one, but I was a kid when it happened)
  • The art of Jackson Pollack
  • The Yankees losing the World Series
  • The extinction of the dinosaurs

I hang my head in shame as I admit to all of these things. Perhaps someday you can all find it in your hearts to forgive me. But at least we're not responsible for Anne Robinson.--MAY



Be careful, they're watching us!

I have a few hot buttons. Everyone does. Today, my temper sort of went through the top of my head and into the ceiling of my apartment, narrowly missing my upstairs neighbors and exiting through the roof.

This happened because an acquaintance of mine sent me a letter that purported to tell us who really was behind the Sept. 11th WTC attacks. I didn't read the letter at first, just glanced at it and realized it was yet another anti-Semitic screed about how 4,000 Israelis supposedly called in sick to work that day (a canard; only a bit more than 100 Israelis worked at the Trade Center, and they didn't call in sick). I sent back a reply asking the sender to please never send me a letter like that again; I'm Jewish, and he should know better.

Then I read the letter. It was by David Duke. We all remember David Duke, don't we? He's the neo-Nazi from Louisiana that managed to get himself elected as a representative to the state legislature but failed to get elected Governor (the citizens of Louisiana have some self-respect, their long history of corrupt government notwithstanding). Well, dear old Dukester listed lie after lie after lie about the Jewish domination of the world media, banking industries, and, well, just plain world. Makes you wonder: If we run the world, how come we allow anti-Semitism, and how come people like David Duke are still alive and bad-mouthing us? Come to think of it, if we run the world, how come I have to work for a living? Where's my share of the loot, huh? Hello?

Anyway, the more I read the angrier I got, and I sort of fired off a flame the like of which I haven't written since, oh, that letter to Salon back in October. But now it's a few hours later, my temper has returned from its visit upstairs a bit calmer, and I started thinking: What makes people buy into this conspiracy theory garbage? How is it that even intelligent, rational adults will believe that there is some kind of national or international conspiracy to do so many things, and especially to cover its own tracks so you can't prove there's a conspiracy?

I've come up with two solutions to the question. People want to believe that there are conspiracies because either they're too afraid to admit their own failings, or because they won't admit that human beings are sometimes too evil to bear. This explains the conspiracy theorists who insist that there is a multinational, world-dominating force that keeps the working stiffs down. It explains the conspiracy theorists who believe that the military-industrial complex gets to say which war we fight, where, and with whom. It explains why people insist the Holocaust never really happened, or the moon landing was a hoax, or that a nation like Israel, which is one of America's strongest allies, would stand back and say nothing while thousands are murdered.

These same people are also saying that we knew about Pearl Harbor before it happened but let it happen anyway so we could get into the war and thereby profit America's companies. JFK, RFK, Martin Luther King, the Reagan assassination attempt--all these were conspiracies. And don't forget about the UFOs and the 100 miles-per-gallon engines that the oil companies are hiding from us until after we use up the world petroleum reserves.

It took me a really long time to understand how people can buy into this garbage, but then I hear stories that make me realize how stupid the average human being really is. And this will probably piss people off, but I'm tired of pretending that stupidity doesn't matter. It matters very much.

I have a relative in the ATM business. I hear lots of stories about how people steal money, cards, PIN numbers. Here are two that illustrate how little effort it takes to rip off the average person.

No, here's only one story. As I was reviewing this blog I realized that the first act is so easy to copy, it might give people ideas and the means with which to rob unsuspecting bank customers. I'll give it to you in email if you're a regular reader here and I know who you are; send me feedback.

A common trick of ATM card thieves is to put a device into the slot where you put your card that can track your card number and PIN number. They literally tape it onto the ATM. You have to be a total moron not to notice that there's plastic and tape all over the ATM card slot.

Works every time. The thieves get away with thousands after counterfeiting cards and stealing your PIN number.

Let's not forget the AOL scammers who use to send email pretending to be AOL employees and asking people for their passwords and credit card numbers. Thousands of people instantly gave out their credit card information.

I wouldn't even tell the Education Testing Service whether or not my parents went to college. I am reluctant to give out my SSN to anyone, anywhere. You can consider yourself lucky when I give out my phone number , which is unlisted, or even my email address.

On second thought, maybe I really don't understand how people can buy into conspiracy theories. But I'm sure a lack of critical thinking skills is what allows monsters like David Duke to spread his lies. And now that we have the World Wide Web, he can spread his lies throughout the globe, passed along blithely by unthinking conspiracy theorists.

Try this, my friends: Don't pass them along blindly. Don't pass them along at all. Read them, realize them for the garbage they are, and put them out with the trash, where both they and he belong.--MAY



Testy testing tests testing tolerance

I do not ever want to take another standardized test for the rest of my life, but if I decide to become a teacher, I'm going to have to go back and take the PRAXIS test, and I can't for the life of me tell you what that name stands for, but I'm betting it means "SUFFER, PUNY HUMANS! HULK SMASH!"

I studied every night this week except for the night of the mammogram, mostly because I was exhausted, it was my night to take care of James, and dammit, I didn't want to do anything but watch Buffy and relax the rest of the night. Last night, I took a full practice test on the computer, and surprised myself with a score of over 1900. So I was pretty confident going into the test today. I had the correct ID, I got there early thinking I'd get out and enjoy this incredibly warm December day, and sat down to take the test. Verbal was first, great! My strength, which meant I'd get to build my confidence some more. Then analytical, which are those stupid logic and sequencing games. They killed me. I guessed on the last few questions. Ten-minute break, quantitative, didn't seem too tough except for a few of the algebra questions, which I frankly guessed on again. Then I'm done, right?

Wrong. Sons of bitches add an experimental portion to the test. They're supposed to give you the option, I thought, of whether or not you wanted to take it. It's a second shot at one of the three sections. Mine was analytical again. More logic games. 35 questions, an hour to take them. And you don't know if the first or the second one is the experimental one, so you can't not answer them. I was so annoyed.

Actually, one thing annoyed me before I started the test. They asked a whole bunch of questions, including whether or not your parents had gone to college. I declined to answer nearly all of them. None of their damned business. You want to use my statistics, you pay me for my time and the information. One of the things that the average person tends to do blindly is answer questions on any form or from any joe who asks. How many of you give out your phone number and address every time you're asked? I never do, not unless it's crucial to whatever I'm doing. I have never given a cashier my phone number so they can throw me into their store database. Once I was even paying cash and the moron at the counter wanted my name and address. "But I'm paying cash," I told her. "What on earth do you think you have to confirm?" Store policy, she said. Too bad, I said. No info. You are not legally required to give out that information to anyone outside of law enforcement, kiddies, and especially not to the cashier at Target.

I'm doing that digression thing again, aren't I? Must be post-testing adrenaline complications. Actually, I wasn't all that nervous going in, although I did have one of those dreams where my teeth fall out. I tend to dream that when I'm stressed. Good thing it's only a dream, or I'd look like my grandfather by now. He used to take his teeth out some time before going to bed at night, and then, inevitably, he'd ask someone something or they'd ask him, and we'd have to try to figure out what Zayda was saying without his false teeth in. Not an easy (or pleasant) thing.

Well, I did it. I didn't score a 1900 but I did get a respectable score, so if I do decide to go to grad school, I guess I'll even be accepted. Now if only I can figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life. Hm. What are the odds I can get someone to pay me to blog?--MAY