Heavenly Grounds

Since I opened the coffee shop, I’ve learned not to ask too many questions.  I bought out the location, wedged between an organic food market and an overly modern art boutique, because I thought I’d get an interesting crowd.  I should have been more careful about my wish.

My first customer of the day wandered in about five minutes after the shop opened, still yawning and rubbing his eyes.  His halo illuminated the dark circles under his eyes.

“Been putting in long hours?” I asked, my voice sympathetic as I rang up his usual order.  Aside from the archangels, who’ve managed to pick up some unique tastes to accompany their personalities, most angels order the same thing.  Large coffee, seven creams, seven sugars.  The mixture looks nearly white.

The angel nodded in response.  “Big flood in southeast Asia,” he replied.  Somehow his voice was melodious, even when slurred and sleepy.  “More souls coming in means a lot more paperwork.  Way too much late night reading.”

The first day that the store was open, I received only a single customer: a peculiar man dressed in an oversized fedora and what appeared to be three trench coats, each of a different color and cut.  I later learned that angels are comically bad at disguising themselves.  After tasting his sweetened cream, with just a hint of coffee, the man had enthusiastically informed me that I would be getting “a lot of business very soon.”

I passed over the angel’s coffee, and he dropped a heavy gold coin onto the wooden counter with a dull thud.  I quickly tucked it away in the box sitting beneath the register.  One angelic quirk: while they understand the concept of money, they haven’t yet mastered inflation, or commodities exchange.  I don’t know where they get the coins, each emblazoned with the profile of a bearded man and curly, indecipherable writing hammered around the edge.  One day I sat down, weighed a few of them to get an average, and worked out that I was being paid roughly $700 per coffee.

The second morning, nearly two dozen angels had drifted through my shop.  After closing for the day, my sugar and cream completely gone, I sat in the back room for nearly an hour, staring at the stack of heavy gold coins I had received as payment.

“Have a good day!” I began, but my well wishes were cut short as the angel turned away.

“Sir, your robe!” I shouted, as the angel took a pull of the coffee, his backside turned to me.  And what a backside it was!  The heavenly miracle that held his white robe around his figure had somehow failed today, and the poor angel’s bare ass was hanging out for me and the world to see.

After a couple weeks, things began settling into a routine.  The angels came in two surges, one in the morning and one shortly after lunch.  They don’t come from outside, and they certainly don’t fly; occasionally, when the door opens, I get a glimpse of brilliant white from the other side before the angel emerges.  Although they vary slightly in hair color, height, and facial features, they’re always dressed in white, with a small halo bobbing overhead.

The angel looked down at himself, and flushed red with embarrassment.  With a wave of his hand, he repaired the wardrobe malfunction, and quickly scurried away.

I didn’t have time to laugh over this occurrence; more customers were already entering, many of them still adjusting halos, tuning harps, or trying to keep their flaming swords from singing my carpets.  I’ve been forced to put a large sign on the register, stating that any accidental arsonist will be refused service.

Once or twice, I’ve been graced by the visit of an archangel.  Unlike their inferiors, they wear smartly tailored suits, with small slits in the back for their wings.  One of them, Gabriel, was quite friendly, and explained to me that my shop happened to be at a nexus of intersecting loci, spanning nearly nine of the fourteen dimensions.  I’m not sure what this means, but it makes my coffee shop very easy for the angels to access.  

Archangels are also very serious about coffee.  Gabriel waited for me to brew a fresh pot, and then drank it black.  Although well-mannered and appreciative, he recommended several exotic varieties of coffee bean.  I placed the order later that day.  It never hurts to have an archangel’s favorite flavor on hand.

After the morning rush had tapered off, I made sure to lock the box beneath the register.  It was getting quite heavy from the gold coins inside; I’d need to visit a Cash 4 Gold location fairly soon.  Although I made nearly fifteen thousand dollars each day, I had started donating most of the money to various charity programs.  It felt like the right thing to do.

I did use a bit of the money for a new sign for the coffee shop, however.  “Heavenly Grounds” just has the right sound to it, don’t you think?

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Radioactive, Part I

Author’s note: What’s that you’re asking?  Does this piece have a soundtrack?  Of course it does!

The oddest thing about waking up, Protis mused, is that he never expected it to happen.

For a while he simply lay in place, savoring the feeling of sensation as his arms and legs regained their functions.  He could feel his cells moving, growing, emerging from the stasis in which they had been imprisoned.  He gazed at the cracked concrete ceiling above him and, slowly, his thin lips grew into a smile.

He could feel it.  The world was different, now, much different than when he had last been forced to sleep.  But some things would always be the same.  He would always find a place for himself.

Protis began to lift himself up, rising out of the coffin in which he lay, but paused, momentarily concerned.  He was feeling exceptionally weak; there was something that he was forgetting.  Something important.  Ah yes, breathing.  He drew in a deep breath, filling his lungs for the first time in far, far too long.  His smile widened as new oxygen rushed to his tissues.

Still half-sitting, half-reclining, he tasted the air as he took another breath.  The levels of fluorocarbons and exotic pollutants were far lower than what he last remembered, although the sulfide and carbon dioxide levels were higher.  So, the high-tech machines were gone, replaced by the old-fashioned fallback of fire and coal.  This was perfectly suitable to him.  Protis was, if anything, adaptable.

Now that oxygen was flowing through his system once again, Protis sat up in the coffin, looking around the room where he had lay for many years.  A thick layer of dust covered everything beneath the heavy cement ceiling, and most of the computer equipment along the walls was no longer active.  Smashed displays and dark instruments were everywhere.

It looked like the facility had been abandoned for some time, Protis mused, but they had kept the power on; all the machines had still been running, and he had still been forced to sleep.  However, some sort of natural disaster must have struck after that.  Large sections of the ceiling had caved in, smashing several important-looking machines to pieces.

A foggy and unpleasant memory drifted past Protis’s eyes, and he turned around in the raised coffin to look behind where his head had lain.  Several thick tubes and cables spiraled down from the container, running off to some of the larger machines around the room.  A single chunk of concrete had fallen onto this bundle of tubes, neatly severing the entire cluster.  Protis grinned happily at the sight.

Swinging his legs up over the lip of the coffin, Protis dropped heavily down onto the dusty floor.  “Ugh,” he groaned, with vocal cords similarly dusty from disuse.  He patiently waited for his muscles to fully reboot.  After several minutes, he climbed easily to his feet, his movements now fluid and confident.  He lifted a hand, flexing and relaxing the fingers in experimentation.  Ah, it was good to be alive again.

Protis raised one hand to his temple, squinting as he tried to collect his jumbled thoughts.  He knew that they had poked around in his head.  They hadn’t been gentle with their probes, either; their goal had been to rip out every enhancement he had installed.  They had been fairly successful.  The sheer fogginess of his brain was indication enough of that.  But had they gotten everything?

The door to the chamber, a heavy piece of reinforced steel, sat crooked in its track but still blocked the exit.  Protis eyed the door, sizing up the slab of metal, and then cocked back his fist.  Bouncing on the balls of his feet, he hit the center of the door with a light jab.

He watched with a surge of pleasure as the steel crumpled and the entire frame pinwheeled backwards across the floor, literally torn from its hinges.  He inspected his unharmed fingers.  No, they certainly hadn’t gotten everything.  And there was always more room for enhancements.

Without a glance back over his shoulder, Protis lightly strolled down the newly opened corridor, leaving the chamber behind.  However, he paused about halfway down the hallway.

Turning on one heel, he sprinted back into the chamber, back to the coffin where he had lain for countless years.  One kick split the coffin in half.  More attacks reduced the computers and machinery around the room down to balls of torn and splintered metal.  Protis didn’t stop his strikes, circling the room in a blur of destruction, until there wasn’t a single control panel or display left intact in the entire room.

He glared around the room, his prison for so many unfelt years.  Standing atop the pieces of the coffin, he mentally checked his pulse.  Low and stable.  With a deep breath, he forced the anger and rage to drain away, leaving him cool and composed once more.

Once again, he began walking down the hallway, away from the chamber, seeking enjoyment in the simple freedom of moving his limbs.  “Ah, tabula rasa,” he said aloud with happiness, seeing the glow of sunlight up ahead.  “Let’s see what my children have been up to.”

GeneHack, Kevin’s Defection (II)

Continued from Part I, here.

The lights in the auditorium began to dim.  Startled from his reverie, Kevin looked around as the lights faded out.  Most of the other seats had been filled by this point, and the hundreds of conversations were beginning to die down.  Two seats down from Kevin, a not-unattractive woman in what looked like her late thirties made eye contact with him briefly before glancing away.

Over the next few weeks, other representatives from Hi Jump had come by the office, had praised Kevin for his “touching and innovative take on the heart behind gene modifications.”  Despite the praise, however, that offer of the advance copy of Hi Jump had eaten away at Kevin.

His entire ad campaign was based on the idea that this genemod could offer everyone a chance to succeed, that this could be a ticket for an underprivileged kid to improve his status.  But the cost of Hi Jump would ensure that it would be a perk solely for the rich.

On the stage, the lights had risen, focusing on a single microphone stand at the front of the stage.  From the flap in the curtain, a man emerged.  He was in his late twenties, younger than Kevin, and he looked . . . healthy.

Kevin wasn’t sure how to classify this man.  Most of his clients, the designers and consultants for genemods, were more than wealthy enough to afford all the latest enhancements, wearing movie-star beauty like a carnival mask.  He was used to seeing engineered attractiveness.  But this man had something different.  He was handsome, striking, but his face was weathered and creased with light wrinkles.  He looked like he had experienced life, hardships, good and bad times, not like he was molded from plastic or porcelain.

The man began to speak, and to his surprise, Kevin found himself pulled in by the flow of words.  The man had spoken of fairness, of equality, of times when there was not such a divide between the rich and poor.  His words turned dark, warning of growing differences, of class discrimination, of a whole separate species, made different by genemods that were beyond the reach of any normal working citizen.  Kevin nodded.  He had seen the price tags, experienced the sticker shock.  Many others around him were nodding as well.

The man’s words were like matches, starting new fires of thought.  Genemods were incredible scientific breakthroughs.  They saved lives, cured diseases, kept people healthy, active, safe.  But they were nothing more than a tool, and they were being misused by the rich, by the privileged, by those who currently wielded the tool.  It was not right, and it had to change.  Kevin was entranced.

By the end of the man’s speech, Kevin was on his feet, as was nearly everyone else in the auditorium.  A low roar lay beneath the words, the physical sound of anger, frustration, impotent fury rising from the hundreds of people inside the room.  The man now spoke in ringing tones, spoke of taking back the system, of setting the genes free, of opening genemods to all who needed them, of the new utopia that would arise.

As he reached his climax, now shouting, no longer needing the microphone, the lights went out.  For a moment, the auditorium was total darkness.  When the lights returned, a moment later, the man was gone from the stage.

Kevin filed out, his thoughts scattered, feeling in a daze.  As he was making his way out of the auditorium, half-listening to the murmured comments and conversations around him as he headed up an aisle, he realized that he was walking next to the woman he had seen earlier.  Their eyes briefly met again.

The woman moved closer, quickening her steps to catch up.  “Hi,” she said, as she drew alongside him.  “My name’s Stacy.”  She held out a hand to him; he noticed that her fingers were shaking slightly.

He took the proffered hand, shook it gently.  “I’m Kevin.  Nice to meet you.”

GeneHack, Kevin’s Defection (I)

The seat was uncomfortable, the thin layer of padding failing to soften the hard metal frame.  Kevin squirmed uncomfortably as he waited for the seminar to start.

He still wasn’t quite sure why he had even decided to come.  Looking around, trying to keep his glances inconspicuous, he saw that many of the other people shuffling into the large hall were ill, unwell, injured or sick and obviously unable to pay for treatment.  Kevin wished that he could sink lower into his own seat, concealing his fit frame.  He tried to be frugal, but the easy money from his job often gave him fuel to spend on genemods.

But wasn’t that money one of the reasons he was here, skulking in the back of this auditorium?  As he waited, Kevin thought back to the most recent ad that his company had been hired to design.  That he had designed.

The mod itself had been fairly straightforward, nothing too flashy.  Called Hi Jump, it had targeted abs, quads, calves, and hamstrings, upping both calcium receptors and growth hormone levels in fast-twitch white muscle fibers.  The results had been moderately positive, with most participants reporting a fifteen to thirty percent increase in jump height.  Not satisfied with these rather dull sounding figures, Hi Jump had hired Kevin’s team to make certain that sales went through the roof.

Over the last few weeks, Kevin’s team had come up with several compelling ads to present to Hi Jump.  One had featured a man racing alongside a gazelle, matching it leap for leap.  Another had shown a montage of pro basketball players, with an announcer going wild on the audio track.  Kevin’s ad had featured a young kid on an inner city basketball court, interspersed with images of pro players, suggesting that Hi Jump would give that last push necessary to reach stardom from humble beginnings.

Kevin’s ad had been selected by the consultants from Hi Jump.

Of course, there had been celebrations in the office the next day.  Landing such a large contract, especially for a successful genemod with an advertising campaign, was a huge success.  But then the Hi Jump consultants came back to the office.  They told Kevin and his team that they were each eligible to receive a bonus in the high four figures.  A very significant amount of money.

Or, if they preferred, they could decline the cash bonus and instead receive an advance copy of the Hi Jump genemod, at a fifty percent discount from retail.

Continued in Part II, here.

GeneHack, Dana’s Introduction

Author’s note: This idea is a small part of something much larger that I’ve been considering writing for a while.  Think of this as a testing run of one of my main characters, seeing how well he flows out onto the page.  My apologies if half the references in the story don’t have explanations yet.

Dana Black could smell the charred flesh three flights below the penthouse.  He lifted the large soya-coffee to his lips, taking a large gulp to override the stench.

He didn’t pause at the entrance to the penthouse suite, his breathing easy.  Dana chose to avoid most of the new downloads on GeneNet, especially considering what he saw during his work day, but there were some mods that were undeniably worth their exorbitant price.  The basic aerobic/anaerobic muscle boosts were one of those mods.

As he stepped through the doorway, briefly noting the charred marks on the inside of the shattered frame, the smell intensified.  A couple of officers were standing by, hands to their faces and trying not to gag.  Dana nodded to one man that he recognized, an older sergeant named Carson.  A man he had negotiated successfully with before.

The body, or what was left of it, was lying sprawled in the middle of the living room, surrounded by blackened streaks of soot across the marble floors.  Dana stepped closer, peering over the shoulder of one of the crime scene techs.  “What have we got?” he asked, addressing the question in Carson’s direction.

The sergeant stepped forward, lifting his holopad to briefly check his notes.  “The room was rented out indefinitely to a Karla Defuengo, age twenty-four.  She had a private account on file with the hotel, everything was paid immediately.”

Dana prodded the charred corpse with the toe of his shoe, ignoring the elicited squawk from the nearest crime scene technician.  “So, rich kid, probably partying it up every night in the city.”

Carson wanted to remain impartial, but Dana caught the slight hint of a nod before the officer regained control.  “Doorman knew her.  Said he called her a lot of cabs, usually pretty late at night.”  He didn’t need to add that this only confirmed Dana’s prediction.

Still squatting down by the body, Dana shot a meaningful glance across the room, where a charred piece of electronic equipment sat, smoking, next to a padded bench.  “Any chance of getting data off of that?” he asked.

“Not likely.”  This time the response came from one of the techs.  “The biologicals are kept on the inside, for preservation; the computer parts are on the outside.  The memory’s the first thing to go when the terminals take any sort of environmental damage.”

Dana kept his expression neutral.  It didn’t matter much to him that the GeneNet terminal was fried; his upload was already running Karla Defuengo’s name through the databases, searching for recent purchases.  He didn’t have to wait long.  A soft chime in his ear alerted him to a match.

Climbing back up to his feet from the squat, he closed one eye as the data streamed across his contact lens.  Despite having worn the system for months, now, he was still thrown off balance by the words appearing directly in front of him, seemingly hovering in thin air.  He wished that the scientists could figure out how to stop the double vision headache, caused by the words only appearing in front of one of his eyes instead of both.  Focusing on the words with his open eye, he read through Karla’s most recent downloads.

Ah.  Although it wasn’t the last mod that she had downloaded, the name made the choice obvious. Tapping his fingers softly to activate commands on his uplink, Dana filed the bug report for the mod, making sure to tag it Priority-2.  With a clench of his fist, the report was away, streaming back to his parent company through the invisible waves of data filling the air.

Opening his other eye, Dana let out a sharp wolf whistle, getting the attention of the workers in the room.  He swung a finger around in the air in a small circle.  “Case closed,” he announced.  “Let’s wrap things up, let the cleaning crews get in here.”  He was sure that the hotel was already offering the ‘newly vacated’ suite to other potential buyers.

Most of the cops began gathering their belongings and heading for the door without a word, but Carson caught Dana’s eye.  “I doubt I need to ask, but we’ll be getting paid the usual for this, right?” he asked.  “Keeping things quiet for your company?”

“EnteroDagon is thankful for the assistance and cooperation of the authorities during these early stages of genetic modification testing,” Dana recited from memory.  “As is our civic duty, EnteroDagon will provide any and all compensation necessary to aid the authorities.”

Carson nodded.  He was able to read between the lines of corporate bullshit, Dana knew.  He respected the man for that.  He turned and followed the other officers out of the room, leaving Dana briefly alone with the burnt remains of Karla Defuengo.

As he turned to exit, Dana spared one last glimpse down at the body of the former socialite.  Karla was the typical daughter of a rich scion, bored and burdened with too much money and not enough common sense.  She had been a regular at the party scene, and several arrests for drugs and misconduct had already been quietly expunged from her records.  Still, the lack of judgement in this case surprised even Dana.

Who thought that downloading an untested mod for fire breathing, of all things, was a good idea?

Not sure what’s happening?  Don’t know what GeneNet, download terminals, mods, or EnteroDagon is?  That’s okay, because nobody else does yet either!  I may or may not write more on GeneHack – stay tuned.  It now has its own sidebar label for easy tracking.

The Mad Three go Fishing

Jack watched enviously as Corkscrew swung the fishing pole.  With a soft zing, the line shot out, the bobber landing squarely in the middle of a particularly promising patch of reeds.  Within seconds, there was the tug on the line that indicated another bite.

“My god, Corkscrew, how are you doing it?” Jack asked, watching as his pal reeled in a decent size sunfish.

At the other end of the boat, Franco took another pull of beer.  His fishing rod was still sitting in a tangle in the trunk of the car.  He was jealously guarding the chest of drinks, however, and had slowly slumped further and further down into the boat as the morning had progressed.  “Don’t encourage him,” he muttered.

Corkscrew winked, grinning, as he worked the hook free.  “It’s all in the bait!” he said happily.  “Here, what are you putting on your hooks?”

Jack reeled in his own rod, inspecting the soggy worm on his hook before forlornly casting it back out into the pond.  “Worms,” he said.

“Ah, see that’s the problem!” Corkscrew enthused.  “You have to tailor your bait directly to the fish you’re after, and then adjust for water temperature, clarity, all the other factors!”

Franco groaned, and pulled his hat down lower over his eyes.  “He’s going to say something stupid, I just know it,” he griped.

Jack shot a quick glare at the complainer.  “Look, just because we chose Corkscrew’s idea for this weekend instead of yours doesn’t mean that you need to be so grumpy!” he ordered.

“Clubs in downtown would have been way more fun,” Franco responded, but he made sure his comments were low enough to be all but inaudible.  He finished the rest of his beer bottle, adding it to the others at the bottom of the boat.

Jack turned back to Corkscrew.  “So what are you using here?”

Corkscrew gestured out at the still waters of the pond.  “Well, we’ve got a sunny day, but rather murky water,” he said.  “So we want something with a bit of flash to it, to shine through the water, and something that will move, so it stands out in the still pond.”

Holding his rod in one hand, he reached down and flipped open the large tackle box at his feet.  “Here, try this,” he said, holding out a shiny spoon lure with several small, dangling hooks.  “It should be lightweight enough to dance in the water, catch their attention.”

Jack reeled in his line, attaching the new lure.  “I can’t believe you know so much about this,” he said in admiration.

“Oh, I’ve always been a great baiter,” Corkscrew replied, a smile dancing around the corners of his mouth.

“Here it comes,” Franco murmured, setting aside his beer and reaching into the water-filled bucket.

“In fact,” Corkscrew continued, you might say that I’m an expert in it.  A master.”  By now, he was grinning broadly.  “Yep, I’m the master baiter!  Ow!”

“Nice shot,” Jack said to Franco, who was wringing drops of water from his hand.  Alongside the boat, the fish that had just connected solidly with Corkscrew’s head was making the most of its chance to escape.

Author’s note: Yes, this whole thing was written so I would have a chance to make that pun.  

Life: Are You Winning?

People talk about what life is really all about.  Often, I hear words like happiness, security, peace of mind, relaxation, nirvana, or contentment.  This is all completely wrong, of course.  Life is about winning.

But how do you determine if you are winning at life?  It turns out that there are several different scales for measuring how well you’re winning at life.  As in science, pick the metric that makes your data look best!

1. Current Value
This method is probably the easiest and most straightforward of measuring how well you are winning at life.  Simply look at what you have right now (money, property, significant other/spouse, children, etc.) and compare it to your opponent.  Do you have more?  You win!

Example: “Hi there!  I drive a Corvette, own properties in New York, San Francisco, and Florida, and travel between them on my private jet!  Have you met my wife?  You may recognize her from the cover of Sports Illustrated!”

While Current Value is the easiest method for measuring life winning-ness, and is indeed the default for most, there are other methods that may give you a higher winning-ness score.  And, as we all know, that’s what matters.

2. Ascension (Chronological)
Unlike Current Value, Chronological Ascension looks at the difference between where you started, and where you are currently at.  While having a modest 1.5-story house and a used car may not be the same as a mansion and a Ferrari, it is still a huge improvement for a first-generation immigrant or someone born into poverty.  Chronological Ascension is good for eliminating error due to being born into wealth.

Example: “When I came to this country ten years ago, I had nothing but the clothes on my back.  Now, I own a small business and have a family, living in my very own house.  This is truly the American Dream.”

3. Absolute Difference 
Are you a teenage heartthrob, now in your forties and struggling to get by?  Fear not, measure your winning-ness by Absolute Difference!  Simply take the highest point in your life, and subtract the lowest point in your life.

Interestingly enough, using this method of life evaluation allows for some creative accounting.  If your highest moment was some time ago in the past, and you are currently on a downswing, you can increase your winning-ness score via Absolute Difference by driving your current situation even lower.  If you are currently at your lowest score because you’re homeless, picking up a heroin habit will keep that score plummeting, increasing your total winning-ness via Absolute Difference.

Example: “When I was in my teens, all the boys in high school wanted to get with me.  I was the prom queen, the most popular girl in school!  Now, I’m a chain-smoker, pregnant with my third kid, and living in a trailer park, but at least I had an awesome time in high school!”

Do none of these metrics work for your lifestyle?  Still dissatisfied with your winning-ness score?  Don’t worry – there are many more methods still to come!  Stay tuned!

Go Clean Your Room

Author’s note: this is not a short story, but merely a personal rant.  I’m not feeling creative today.  Sue me.

(Author’s note: please don’t sue me.)

This past weekend, I visited the apartment of one of my cousins, who is married, living in New York, owns an adorable little dog, wears hats and somehow manages to look incredibly fashionable in them, and is, in general, doing much better at life than I am.  Upon entering his apartment, I was struck by one single question, powerful and overriding all others.

How in the world does he keep his apartment so clean??

Yes, that question deserved the double question marks.  Now that I am back home in my own apartment, I look around and see that I am surrounded by filth.  How does he do it?

I have cleaned before.  And I have even gotten my room to look spotless and amazing, similar to how his apartment seems.  However, even a day or two later, things have begun to decline, to go downhill.  First, it’s a shirt that I only wore for half a day, and isn’t ready for the laundry bin yet.  I can’t fold up this shirt, so I merely set it on a chair, ready to be worn again.  One shirt sitting out isn’t so bad.

After that comes a book or two.  Well, I just got back from the library with a half dozen books, but I don’t want to put them on my bookshelf, or I will forget them forever and won’t get around to reading them.  I know!  I’ll make a nice, neat little stack here on the floor.  That way they are visible and I will definitely get around to reading them.

Oh, look, some papers that I was working on!  Those are important.  I’m not done editing those.  I will set them right next to my bed, so that when I go back to editing them, I can reach over and pick them right up.  Yes, that is a good spot.

Next thing I know, my room is filled with random items, and I need to play a complicated game of hopscotch in order to get to my dresser in the morning.  I don’t think of myself as a messy person, but it seems that my living space is determined to prove me wrong.  Even more annoying is the fact that, whenever I go to clean my room, I realize that there are many other, more important things that I should be doing.  Like looking at pictures of cats on the internet. 

Every now and then, when I do realize that there are only two square feet of carpet still visible in my room, I will go on a cleaning binge.  Away go the clothes!  Begone, stray dishes!  Back to the shelves, you books!  Hiyah!  I really ought to be using a pitchfork.  An hour later, my room is spotless, and I can lie back in contentment.

Of course, this lasts for a good day or so before I’m leaving out an article of clothing again, thinking that “just one won’t hurt.”

And, as may be obvious by the subject of this post, I am writing this in an attempt to procrastinate instead of cleaning my room.  

Mental Depths and Shallows

In science, there’s a concept of buoyancy.  Things are buoyant if they float, that is, if their average density is less than water.  On the other hand, if this average density is greater than water, they sink.  If the density is equal to water, they stay wherever they’re placed, and are considered at “neutral buoyancy.”

Now, what’s the buoyancy of your thoughts?
No, I don’t mean the buoyancy of the brain.  Although, if you’re curious, the brain is actually at relatively neutral buoyancy, which is how it floats inside our heads without hitting the bottom of our skulls.
(Take a moment to consider this.  If your brain was to somehow come out of your body underwater, it wouldn’t bob to the top, like the rest of your body.  Instead, it would just hang there in the water, drifting back and forth along the currents . . . )
(Now imagine a whole school (flock?  Shoal?) of brains, roaming in the depths of the ocean.  Existing without bodies, they drain the mental energies of their prey, dragging down sailors from capsized ships into the depths, where the brains will feed off the dying thoughts . . . )
But I’m getting off topic.  No, think about thoughts.  That’s right, meta-thinking.  
There are definitely shallow thoughts:
  • “Oh my god, look at her dress.  It totally does not look good with her body.”
  • “How many of these could I fit in my mouth at once?”
  • “I’m sleepy.”
  • “I think I should watch Keeping Up With The Kardashians.”
  • “Is this Justin Bieber?  I love this song!”
Yep.  Pretty shallow.  Splashing around on the edge of the mental pool.
On the other hand, there are certainly deep thoughts as well:
  • “What is my purpose in life?”
  • “What will happen to the universe, in the end?”
  • “How will I be remembered, after I’m gone?”
  • “If I eat myself, will I weigh twice as much, or nothing at all?”
Now, take a moment and reflect.  Do your day-to-day thoughts tend to be towards the shallow end, or the deeper end?
Personally, I have noticed that, like a joyful minnow, my thoughts seem to enjoy alternating between surfacing and diving.  While sitting or trying in vain to fall asleep, I will find myself pondering the deepest questions in life, when all of a sudden, my deep thoughts are interrupted by an idle wondering about when the next episode of Top Gear will be on.  Bam, back in shallow territory.
Going a step further, do different people have different mental buoyancies?  Does my friend, who watches nothing but reality television, have a brain that moors in shallower waters than mine?  Does another friend, who insists on reading dry and musty poets, have a brain hiding deeper in the depths?  
And now, for the scientific part of my brain: how could this be measured?

Ask Bobby Flay!

Ah, the good ol’ culinary master, Bobby Flay.  Did you know that Bobby Flay used to answer questions, right here on the internet?  In fact, he sometimes still provides answers, as can be seen at this link: 

http://bobbyflay.com/news.php?id=15

Upon learning this, my family and I have brainstormed some questions that dearly need answering, questions to which only the great Bobby Flay could provide answers:

Dear Bobby Flay, I sliced a sea cucumber for my salad and it did not taste good at all!  What gives?

Dear Bobby Flay, I bought one of your pans, and hit myself in the groin by accident. Now my balls are sore. Can I get a refund?

Dear Bobby Flay, I bought a lobster and now it’s looking sad. How do I cheer him up?

Dear Bobby Flay, I bought a squid, and it escaped and is now living under my couch. What is the best type of cat food to feed it?

Bobby, how do you stop from sweating?  How?

Doctor Bobby, I stubbed my toe yesterday and now it’s funny colors. Should I ice it or use a heat pack?

Dear Bobby Flay, help with this issue: is it a lobster tree, or a lobster bush?

Dear Bobby Flay, Do you have a girlfriend?  If so, where is the nearest sinkhole?

Bobby, what are best types of noodles for crocheting?  Please answer, this is life or death.

(I will be very disappointed if his answer does not mention noodlepoint.)

Dear Bobby Flay, I went to a Chinese restaurant and no one was eating the guacamole, so I ate it all. Why do I hurt everywhere now?

Dear Bobby Flay, if the person to whom I gave food poisoning dies, am I still in trouble?

Dear Bobby Flay, my prison wine is lacking a certain panache. How do I kick up the flavor bouquet?

(Perhaps this question would be better directed towards Martha Stewart.)

Dear Bobby Flay, I found a piglet in the back yard, but it’s very hairy and keeps meowing. How long until it turns into bacon?

Dear Bobby Flay, what herb combination does Giada’s hair smell like?

Dear Bobby Flay, where are the top ten places to hide a potato?

If someone could forward these questions on to Mr. Flay, I would greatly appreciate the answers.  Thank you, internet community!