• Every once in a while, I write up a fake news article designed to mimic the style of The Onion. I wrote this one a couple of years ago, before existed. I’m pretty sure we’ve all encountered our own Derek Thibideaux at some point. Enjoy.

    “The ego as we formerly understood it was a psychological construct. Today, we know differently. Today, we have evidence to suggest a physical manifestation of the ego.”

    So said Dr. Raymond Smithfield at a press conference yesterday. Doctor Smithfield is a theoretical physicist at the esteemed Mauser-Hopkins Institute of Physical Sciences in Ellsworth, New Hampshire. The new evidence Dr. Smithfield refers to comes in the form of Derek Thibideaux, a sales clerk at Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Mentor, Ohio. Thibideaux is regarded by his co-workers to be the single most self-involved person on the face of the planet.

    “He’s got an opinion about everything,” said one co-worker, who preferred to remain anonymous. “No one can stand to even talk to him, because if you say one wrong thing he’ll rant for a good hour about why you’re wrong, how stupid you are, and why his point-of-view should be adopted by everyone. God, his ego is huge.”

    “‘Huge’ is something of an understatement,” said Dr. Smithfield. “The size of Mr. Thibideaux’s ego defies explanation. What we can say is that it has a direct physical effect on the world as we know it. This an unprecedented discovery.”

    Specifically, Derek Thibideaux’s ego exerts gravitation pull on everything around him. “Mr. Thibideaux weighs less than three hundred pounds, but our instruments have detected a gravitational field around his body.” The mass required to generate such a field, says Dr. Smithfield, “would be incomprehensible to the layperson. We literally have no point of reference for such a thing. It’s far less than that of Earth’s moon, but far greater than that of any man-made object or structure on our planet.”

    The field is strong enough that Dr. Smithfield and his team were able to detect it without instruments. “The effect this gravitational force has on the human body is rather unusual,” he said, “typically manifesting in a mild nausea.”

    “Derek’s presence is generally enough to make me ill,” said co-worker Melissa Hadley. “He’s so self-centered, I can hardly stand to be around him.”

    “This is really quite a common complaint about severely egotistical individuals,” confirms Dr. Smithfield. “Until now, it’s always been assumed that this sensation of illness was merely figurative or – at the very worst – psychosomatic. Our findings reveal that it is very real, and that there is a physiological explanation for it.”

    The team anticipated some skepticism. “It really is an unprecedented notion,” Dr. Smithfield admits, “but we’re confident that all our bases have been covered.”

    Dr. Edmund Whittier headed the project. “We have been extremely careful and systematic throughout the discovery and quantification processes,” he said. “We certainly didn’t want to go public with this without due diligence. All other factors have been taken into account. The only possible source of this gravitational anomaly is Derek’s hyper-inflated ego.”

    Not surprisingly, Thibideaux’s ego has grown significantly larger since the findings were verified. “Quite honestly,” said Dr. Smithfield, “we’re a little concerned. The gravitational force created by Derek’s ego increases proportional with his self-esteem.”

    Dr. Whittier echoed his colleague’s concerns. “As self-centered as Derek is at present, this new attention simply exacerbates the problem. We’ve already found that gravitational field is growing. While this field causes mild nausea in humans, it can kill smaller animals, such as lab rats, and it’s only going to get stronger.”

    Strong enough, Smithfield and Whittier theorize, to eventually bring about the destruction of the planet Earth, and perhaps even reshape the solar system as we now know it. “At the present rate of growth, we could see widespread loss of life in a few months. By the end of the year, Derek’s ego will be strong enough to alter the orbit of man-made satellites.”

    There’s no telling how powerful this force could eventually become. “Derek knows that people are interested in him, that he is special, and this awareness serves only to feed his already astounding ego,” says Dr. Smithfield. “Whether the attention is positive or negative, Derek’s sense of self-importance is increasing exponentially. That could cause Earth’s moon to plummet into the planet, pull Venus and Mars into Earth orbit, or even send us careening into the sun.”

    Efforts to reverse or even slow the growth of Thibideaux’s ego have proven unsuccessful. “Derek’s ego is, as best as we can tell, feeding on itself. We have experimented with sexual rejection, social ridicule and a number of other tried-and-true ego-deflating mechanisms with absolutely no effect,” said Dr. Smithfield. “We have been unable to find a way to negatively impact his self-esteem.”

    “Great,” said Melissa Hayward. “As if he wasn’t overbearing before. It’s going to be practically impossible to work with him now.” Hayward is one of several female co-workers whose sexual rejection failed to damage Thibideaux’s ego.

    “However you look at it, this is one of the most significant scientific findings in our lifetime,” said Dr. Whittier, “but we don’t know whether to call it a breakthrough in physics or psychology.”

    [Editor’s Note: Though Derek Thibideaux repeatedly made himself available for interviews, none of our reporters could stand to talk to him for more than a few seconds. He really is an arrogant, self-absorbed, condescending prick.]

  • Things You Didn’t Need To Know: Anagrams


    Over the years, I’ve used a couple of different anagrams of my first and middle names (“Kris” and “Alan,” respectively) for gamertags or names in various different places. When I used to play a lot of CounterStrike, my gamertag was “Karnalis,” which I also used in several Xbox games. Another anagram that I used far less frequently is “Salnikar.”

    Yesterday, an unfortunate new anagram occurred to me: Anal Risk.

    That’s just unpleasant. I’ve long been aware that my first name is an anagram of “risk” (and, appropriately, “irks”), and my middle name can be reordered to spell “anal” (and, not at all appropriately, “Lana”), but it has never before occurred to me to combine the two anagrams in that order.

    Anyway, if I ever form a death metal band, I think I know what I’ll call it.

  • Weird Habits


    Codeshaman tagged me with this silliness, and though I generally don’t participate in this sort of stuff at, I’m making an exception. I don’t know why.

    The Rules: The first player of this game starts with the topic “five weird habits” and people who get tagged need to write an entry about their five weird habits as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose the next five people to be tagged and link to their web journals. Don’t forget to leave a comment in their blog or journal that says “You have been tagged” (assuming they take comments) and tell them to read yours.

    1. I’m extremely disorganized, but every once in a while I organize the living hell out of something. I create a wholly-unnecessary spreadsheet of all my PC and Xbox games about once every two or three years.
    2. If I’m channel-surfing and I see that the movie Predator is on, I’ll watch it, whether it just started or it’s halfway through. This despite the fact I own the DVD.
    3. I will pick up a “hobby” on a whim and pursue it very determinedly until the next shiny thing catches my eye. Darts is a good example of this.
    4. When I’m in a video-gaming mood but don’t want to get too involved in playing a game, I’ll play Spider Solitaire. This almost invariably leads to two solid hours of playing solitaire on the computer.
    5. I used to claim that I “went to high school with a guy/girl named” whoever Laura and I happened to be talking about at the time. She got so annoyed with me that I told her I’d stop doing it, and I did. I told her that this might work for some other things I do that she finds annoying, but I don’t think she believes me.

    Now, who to tag? How about blob, Yotto, TechnoHippyBiker, Jude and Sudrin.

  • Rabbit Hole


    When I woke up this morning, I couldn’t open my left eye. I didn’t notice it right away, not until I looked in the bathroom mirror and saw that half of my face appeared to be asleep. I screamed like a girl. Laugh if you want, but I’ll bet you’d do the same thing.

    It’s not like my eye is stuck, or anything. I just can’t open it. It’s like there just aren’t any muscles in the lid. I can’t move the eye, either. When I touch my eyelid, I can feel my fingertip. If I pull on the eyelashes, I can feel that, too. When I look left, right, up or down, I can’t feel my eyeball moving behind the lid. And if I gently pull the eyelid back with my fingertip… God, it’s just creepy. It’s like looking into a dead man’s eye. Honestly, when I pulled back the lid and looked into the mirror, I almost threw up.

    I can’t open my eye, I can’t move my eye, and I can’t see out of it, either. It’s still there, but it doesn’t work at all. Standing in front of the bathroom mirror, I looked at my left eye with my right eye, and my left eye didn’t look back. It just stared off at who-knows-what, and whatever indescribable quality lends life to the ocular organ was simply not there. I couldn’t look at it for more than a second or two before feeling like I’d lose what was left of last night’s dinner.

    Something has happened to my brain, I think. Not a stroke, but that definitely crossed my mind. That and about a thousand other neurological train wrecks. Whatever it is, nothing else feels different. I can talk and move all of my limbs and extremities. Every other part of my body is working as it did yesterday. But my eye… my eye has been turned off somehow, and whatever part of my brain processes visual input doesn’t seem to miss it.

    I’m aware that my field of vision has decreased, but where it seems like there should be this … I don’t know, this black space, there isn’t. Does that make sense? Go ahead, close your left eye, or just put your hand over it. See that? Blackness on the left. Dark. A definite area of darkness. Your left eye, though covered, is still … on. Mine isn’t. There’s no black area. Just as there’s no black area around your normal, both-eyes-open, field of vision. I don’t know if that makes sense or not, but I’m not sure how to better explain it.

    My depth perception, which should be shot to hell, is … different. Once I (abruptly) moved from that early morning almost awake phase into full blown, in-your-face consciousness, I started thinking about these things. The world seems to have many layers to it right now. If I focus on what I’m looking at, I’m aware that I’m not really seeing in three dimensions, but it’s not exactly two dimensions, either. Instead, there are layers, like those old plays where the scenery is all cutouts and there are layers of ocean wave cutouts between which the boat cutout moves, and further back there’s a sea serpent cutout gliding between more layers of ocean waves.

    I’m sure that made absolutely no sense, but the point is that I’m not bumping into doors or knocking over coffee cups because I can’t judge how far away they are. If I don’t think about it, everything feels normal. My subconscious has made some crucial adjustment that my conscious mind can’t quite handle.

    Are you with me so far? Because this is where things get weird. This is where you’ll want to call the men in white suits.

    Laura, deep sleeper that she is, slept right through my little panic attack. I shook her awake, and she got out of bed. Well, one of her did. One Laura sat up and put her glasses on, but another ignored me and kept right on sleeping. The Laura who got up was solid and whole, while the one who stayed in bed started out solid, but quickly faded from sight. By the time Awake Laura stood up, I could see right through Sleeping Laura. When Awake Laura asked me what was wrong, Sleeping Laura was almost gone. When Awake Laura asked me what I was looking at, Sleeping Laura disappeared entirely, and I wasn’t sure I’d seen her at all.

    As I explained what was happening with my eye, I kept seeing strange things. When Laura talked, her lips seemed blurry. Sometimes, a phantom arm would reach for my shoulder, only to disappear like smoke in a breeze. When she said we should call someone, I saw her turn to pick up the phone, yet she was still looking at me. After a moment, the Laura on the phone (With who? I wondered. Her mother, maybe?) faded and disappeared. Laura suggested that we go to the Emergency Room, and immediately there was another of her in the bedroom, hurriedly getting dressed, while the first speculated that I might have nerve damage. I wasn’t sure which was real until the dressing Laura started to become transparent. After a few moments I realized that I was seeing Laura’s choices. Everything she might do, she was doing, and I saw every option play out and those that weren’t exercised dissolved like cool mist in the sunlight.

    Sometimes, it was easy to tell what was really happening and what wasn’t. Minor decisions, those with little or no consequence, appeared as only faint, spectral images, while choices of more importance seemed solid and real. I quickly learned that however real one of the alternate Lauras might seem, they were insubstantial. Trying to touch a choice not made would result in it dissipating into nothing.

    Laura didn’t run when I told her what I was seeing, but I know she thought about it. I saw her phantasmal form jump back, scramble over the bed, and disappear just before it passed through the bedroom door. She saw me watch the ghost dash across the room and said, “I’m not going anywhere, Kris. And I believe you.”

    “I know,” I replied. “I could see right through you.”

    January 27th is the anniversary of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson’s arrival on Earth. He has since departed, but before doing so he wrote several interesting tales under the pen name Lewis Carroll. The above post is my contribution to LJ Rabbit Hole Day.

    (Cross-posted from my LiveJournal, obviously.)

  • Grounds for Immediate Dismissal


    While listening to music at work, I keep my iPod in the left breast pocket of my shirt to avoid pulling it off my desk and onto the floor when I move around. If you can’t imagine what it looks like when I adjust the volume, you clearly don’t know enough about the iPod. If you can imagine what it looks like, and you’re imagining me doing that, I apologize and suggest sipping some water or coffee to remove the taste of vomit from the back of your throat.

  • With the final casualty toll of the Boxing Day tsunamis still undetermined, scientists have begun to take a closer look at how future geophysical events might affect various regions of the world. Seismologists, geologists and other experts have uncovered a number of scenarios that could spell disaster for millions of people.

    Catastrophe experts have warned that a 12-mile long shelf of rock weighing approximately five hundred million tons might fall into the ocean when the Cumbre Vieja volcano on the island of La Palma next erupts. This would result in gigantic tsunamis that could potentially lay waste to the eastern seaboard of the United States. One northeast Ohio man, however, thinks there is danger much, much closer to home.

    “It could happen right here in Ohio,” says Elyria resident Leonard Dalton. Elyria, a suburb of Cleveland, is one of many towns the would be utterly destroyed by a Lake Erie tsunami, according to Dalton.

    “There is a fault line running right under Lake Ontario,” Dalton told reporters at a press conference on Monday. “If a volcano erupted there, all of southeastern Ontario would fall into Lake Erie, creating a massive tsunami that would obliterate everything on the southern coast.”

    Ontario: Our deadly northern neighbor.

    That includes all of northern Ohio as well as parts of Pennsylvania and New York. “Yes, there is a fault line under Lake Ontario,” confirmed Dr. Alan Meadows of Ohio’s Division of Geological Survey. Dr. Meadows spoke from the division’s laboratory at Alum Creek State Park, north of Columbus—well away from the potential danger zone. “This fault line is very stable, and there is no indication that future earthquakes of significant intensity will occur along the line. Additionally, there is no volcano on that line.”

    Dr. Meadows also pointed out that Ontario and La Palma are very different. “The situation in the Canary Islands is unique,” he said. “On La Palma, you’ve got an unstable slab of rock that could very feasibly slide into the ocean. Ontario isn’t an island, and there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that any part of it could break away, even in the event of a catastrophe of the type Mister Dalton describes.”

    Leonard Dalton disagrees. “It’s easy for the bureaucrats and the white coats to dismiss this,” he said. “They’re all sitting warm and cozy in Columbus. They could care less if Cleveland, Toledo and Buffalo were under fifty feet of water.”

    Dalton’s seismological background consists largely of watching films like Earthquake, released in 1974, and Volcano and Dante’s Peak, both released in 1997. “I’ve seen what happens when we ignore the signs,” Dalton warned a group of reporters and passersby outside the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, which is located near the Lake Erie shore. “No one conceived of a volcano in downtown Los Angeles, either.”

    Ontario could not be reached for comment.

  • Lucas Struggles to Release Heart, Imagination


    George Lucas
    George Lucas

    With the release of Star Wars in 1977, George Lucas captured the heart and the imagination of the world. After 22 years, Lucas began the slow and difficult process of returning both with the release of Episode I: The Phantom Menace in 1999.

    “I guess it was about 1995 or so when I decided that I’d held onto these things long enough,” Lucas admitted recently during an interview at Skywalker Ranch in Nicasio, California. “So I’m giving them back.”

    The process has been more involved than Lucas anticipated. “I thought the first prequel would do the trick. Jar Jar Binks. Jake Lloyd. I was sure that would be the end of it.”

    The world, it seems, is not so eager for the freedom Lucas offers. “I was sure the second one would finish the job,” he said. “Hayden Christensen is the perfect choice to free the world’s captive heart. I hadn’t counted on Ewan McGregor, though. He’s exactly what everyone envisioned a young Obi-Wan Kenobi would be like.” McGregor’s portrayal of the Jedi Knight is, some say, the string that ties the prequels to the original trilogy.

    McGregor’s acting ability isn’t the only thing that has stymied Lucas’ attempt. “The boys over at ILM did one heck of a job with the Yoda/Dooku…” Lucas chuckled. “Come on. Dooku. My kid made that up. That’s funny. Anyway, the whole lightsaber battle was much better than I anticipated. I thought that one would be the ultimate imagination liberator. Boy, was I wrong.”

    “Fans of Star Wars are simply too used to this type of captivity,” says noted psychologist Bernard Shenck. “It happens all the time in hostage situations. The victims begin to sympathize with and even love their captors. That’s exactly what’s going on here. And it’s been going on for over twenty years. Those behavior patterns are extremely difficult to break.”

    Avid Star Wars fan Elmer Gibbin reinforces Shenck’s theory. “Lucas is going to blow us all away with Episode III,” Gibbin insists. “He’ll wrap everything up nicely. The showdown between Anakin (Christensen) and Obi-Wan (McGregor) is going to be awesome!” Gibbin continued with his glowing predictions for another twenty minutes until asked about midi-chlorians, at which point he became withdrawn and hostile.

    Shenck predicts that Lucas may have a bumpy road ahead of him. “If he’s not able to completely release the world’s heart and imagination from captivity with the third prequel, he may have to make sequels to the original trilogy.”

    “No,” says Lucas. “That simply will not happen. Once Episode III: Invasion of the Return of the Revenge of the Son of the Phantom Clone wraps up, I’m finished.”

    When asked about rumors that Steven Spielberg would be directing the sequels, Lucas shook his head emphatically. “Absolutely not. Steven is a great friend, but I have to be honest: he’s the sort of director that would re-capture all the hearts and imaginations I’ve worked so hard to set free over the past few years. I can’t risk that.”