Remember When We Didn’t Need A Planetary Protection Officer?

When I saw NASA’s advertisement for “Planetary Protection Officer,” I knew that it was the job for me.  I have always been concerned about interplanetary missions accidentally bringing alien germs back to Earth.  Although I did not have the required degree in physical science or math, I hated being around sick people, especially people who are sniffling or coughing, and I knew that this trait would make me the most qualified candidate.

My first task upon being hired was to install hand sanitizer dispensers on all spacecraft, with a sign stating that all personnel were required to use it on their hands before entering the spacecraft.  It seemed easy, until I realized that the alien life forms would probably not be able to read English.

So instead I drew several diagrams of aliens placing their hands underneath the dispenser, their hands filling with foam, and then the aliens rubbing their hands together.  But then I realized that the aliens might not have hands.  So I added a few more diagrams that were exactly the same, except in each one the hands were replaced with a different extremity: tentacles, claws, wings, hooves, fins.  I thought I’d covered every possible combination, until some staffer asked, “What if the alien is a gelatinous blob?”  I replied that gelatinous blobs would obviously be far too weird-looking to be allowed on Earth.  I then arranged to have the staffer transferred to a less challenging department.

Next, I drew diagrams demonstrating how aliens should cover their mouths if they coughed or sneezed.  This was a much larger project, since not only did I have to cover a wide range of potential types of hands, but also types of mouths.  Then it dawned on me that some aliens might have more mouths than extremities capable of covering them all.

This problem really had me stumped, until I realized that the thing to do was draw several diagrams, one showing the cough coming from one mouth, then another showing a sneeze coming from another mouth, and so on, with each drawing showing the hand or fin or tentacle covering just the mouth that was coughing or sneezing.  It came out very clear, and I marveled at my success in communicating with extraterrestrial life.

My third task was the most challenging.  I have always considered it my mission, and a difficult one at that, to convince people who have runny noses to grab a tissue and blow their noses, rather than sit there sniffling all day.  We all know what it sounds like when someone with a runny or stuffed up nose chooses to sniffle it back rather than expel it into a tissue.  And then makes that same choice again, and again, and…again, all day long, day in and day out, when there are plenty of tissues right there for the taking, especially when a well-meaning co-worker is holding the tissues out and offering them for free.

With it being so difficult to get humans to use tissues, I knew it would be even harder to convince lifeforms from other planets to blow their noses rather than sniffle?

I struggled with the problem, until I realized the truth was staring me right in the face: sound doesn’t travel in space.  The aliens could sniffle all they want, for no one would ever hear them.  I patted myself on the back for solving a problem with no cost to the taxpayers, and thought about tackling my next big project: extraterrestrials abusing cough syrup.

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My Slogan Was Published In the New York Times!

Two weeks ago, Senator Chuck Schumer announced the Democrats’ new slogan:  A Better Deal

And my first thought was:  “Surely they can do better than that.”

So when the New York Times asked readers to send in their ideas for a better slogan, I submitted mine…and it was among the handful chosen to be published!  I am deeply honored.

So what’s my slogan?  Read it here: A New Democratic Slogan?  Your Choices.  There are a number of other slogans, all of them great.  But if you want to go directly to mine, just scroll down a bit, or search for my name.

I am deeply, deeply honored, not only to be chosen, but to be among so many other great slogans.  If you check out the link, let me know what you think!

-MK

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Remember When We All Had Chips Surgically Implanted?

When my employer approached me about surgically implanting a microchip in my hand so that I could get into the office without having to take out my key fob, I was little reluctant.  But then I read that other people had done it, so I knew it must be safe.

Having a computer chip sitting inside the fleshy web between my thumb and forefinger was a bit strange at first.  But I quickly got used to it, and being able to get into the office with just a wave of the hand was both convenient and futuristic, and I was thankful to live in a time when such technology existed.

The following year, my employer offered a new chip that could not only unlock the doors, but would also allow you to purchase food from the company cafeteria. We normally used a special employee card for that, and although the card was very light, there were a few times that I left it in my pants from the day before, and had to beg for food from co-workers.  I immediately wanted the new chip, and I could not rest or enjoy my lunch until this chip was part of my anatomy.

So I signed up to have my old chip surgically replaced with the new chip.  But the fleshy web between my thumb and forefinger had been stretched during the first surgery, and so the doctors were afraid that yet another surgery to the same spot would cause the fleshy web to lose all elasticity, leaving me with my thumb permanently left hanging off to the side of my hand, and people would perpetually think I was giving their ideas the thumbs down.

So they had to implant the new chip in my other hand.  I was a little upset having now two chips in my body, especially after they told me that the old chip would have to be deactivated per company policy.  But this discomfort was more than offset by the convenience of being able to unlock the doors and buy lunch or a snack with just the wave of my hand.

The following year they released a chip that included a tiny receiver/transmitter so that it could also be a cell phone. I hesitated not one nanosecond before putting my name on the list that had been posted in the cafeteria.

Being able to make a phone call by talking into your hand – can you imagine?  I was so excited, that I did not foresee that there would be any problems.  So I was quite shocked when the head of HR told me that I could not have the upgrade done because both hands had already been operated on.

I begged them to reconsider. Was there another part of my body into which they could install this latest of chips?

Having a chip surgically installed in my upper leg was not as bad as I’d feared.  The surgery was simple, the scar tiny, and making calls by talking into my leg was better than I’d imagined. I could just hunch over like I had dropped a piece of food on my lap and was looking to see where it landed, and say “Dial” and then the number.  The volume of the chip was amplified so that I could hear the speaker easily from my leg. And when I received a call, the chip would vibrate, a nice sensation that had the unexpected effect of massaging my leg, and was quite welcome, especially at the end of a long day.

Naturally they had to deactivate the second chip, again per company policy.  So unlocking the office doors, which I had to do now with my upper leg, was a bit more challenging.  But hardly impossible. The real issue was buying food at the cafeteria.

It was disconcerting to my co-workers standing next to me on line when I suddenly kicked my leg straight up in the air so that the cashier could charge my meal to my thigh.  I am not the most coordinated of people.  Sometimes I jerk my leg up quickly and I can’t always avoid trays that are nearby. So people learned to avoid me when they saw me on the line.

I’d be lying if I said that this minor ostracism did not sadden me.  I’ve always thought of my co-workers as friends first, and co-workers second. But when your employer offers you the chance to become a cyborg, friendship stretches only so far.

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Remember When Everyone Wasn’t in Contact With the Russians?

First it was reported that the National Security Adviser had discussed sanctions against Russia with the Russian ambassador.  Then it turned out that the President’s son-in-law and senior adviser had held numerous meetings with the Russian ambassador, supposedly to establish a line of communication with the Kremlin by connecting two cans with a really long string.  Then it was rumored that the President’s campaign manager had met with Russian intelligence officials, not “knowingly” but thinking they were landscapers giving an estimate on clearing brush in the campaign manager’s backyard.

A foreign policy adviser to the campaign denied having meetings with Russian officials, but then admitted meeting with the Russian ambassador, explaining that “meetings” is totally different from “meeting” because one is plural and the other is singular.  And it was rumored that the founder of a major security company secretly met with an unidentified Russian rumored to be close to the Russian President, and while it was rumored that the founder was not involved in the Presidential campaign, he was rumored to have been a major contributor, and was rumored to have been close to the President’s chief strategist, and was even rumored to be the brother of the President’s education secretary.

The Attorney General, when he was advising the campaign, had spoken twice with the Russian ambassador, but claimed he had done so not as campaign manager but as the result of a wrong number.  And a former adviser to the President admitted that he’d communicated with a hacker persona called “Guccifer 2.0” that may have been a front for Russian intelligence, but could have just as easily been a new operating system for men’s leather shoes.

This was all bad enough.  But then the mayor of my town was said to have spoken to the Russian ambassador about weakening NATO and adding a traffic signal at that busy intersection near the supermarket.  And my daughter’s math teacher was reported to have sold arms and protractors to the Russians for $250 million.  Our favorite pizzeria was temporarily closed while the FBI reviewed the sauce for microphones.  And even the greeter at our Walmart was questioned because a customer—exactly who was never revealed—testified that instead of “Hello, welcome to Walmart,” the greeter had said “Zdravstvuyte, dobro pozhalovat’ v’Walmart.”

A special investigator appointed by Congress issued a subpoena to the local library branch for “records of all patrons who borrowed War and Peace or any other ridiculously long Russian novel” (although that subpoena was eventually quashed by U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit).  And my paperboy was implicated after his smartphone was confiscated by federal agents working undercover (although they kept getting so many popup notifications to backup to the cloud that they gave up).  There were even reports that my neighbor had been in talks with Russian scientists about a new type of genetically engineered grass seed that would give him the nicest looking lawn on the block.

These reports, releases, revelations, and rumors pommeled me, one after another, for months.  I felt like I was living not in America but in a far-flung province of the Russian Empire.  Then one morning I woke up feeling especially lonely and sad.  I realized that everyone—from the very top levels of government, to those neighbors who leave their garbage cans out by the street even though it’s not garbage day—had been in contact with the Russians.

Everyone, that is, except me.

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Remember When Antarctica Wasn’t Falling Apart?

There was no denying it.  Antarctica was falling apart, crumbling like a ball of dried out play dough.  The scientists took photographs and measurements and put together little animated graphics showing how much ice was melting.  The people finally took notice, and started buying pieces of Antarctica to keep in their homes.

Under the Emperor Penguin Accords of 1983, trafficking in pieces of Antarctic ice was illegal and punishable by fines, incarceration, and a process called “cold boot” where the authorities shoved handfuls of snow into your shoes while you were still wearing them.  But the demand for the ice was so great that the rewards outweighed the risks.  “Ice Poachers,” as they came to be called, started making trips to Antarctica and chipping off more pieces to sell.  It became a status symbol to have a piece of the southernmost continent in your home.  Of course to keep it from melting you had to keep the ice very cold all the time.  Wealthy people would build entire freezer rooms to maintain their chunk of Antarctica.

For people of more limited means, there were fewer options.  They had to obtain smaller chunks, small enough to fit inside a conventional freezer.  And then of course people had to keep less things in their freezers.  For many people, it became impossible to keep leftovers more than a day, and they all found themselves having to eat a lot more at dinner.

The black market for Antarctic ice thrived.  Buyers and sellers exchanged cash for ice in dark alleys and shopping mall parking lots, using codes in texts and on Craigslist, like, “Need some big ice.”  But after a few high profile arrests and reports that the laws discriminated against people of lower income because they couldn’t afford the elaborate disguises that wealthier people could use, like hiding the Antarctic chunk in a landscaping truck delivery of mulch, states began to take a softer stance.  Some states began to decriminalize Antarctic ice poaching and owning, some states making it a mere civil penalty, other removing all legal sanction.

It is still illegal under federal law to own a piece of Antarctica, no matter how large or small the piece.  Whether states’ rights in this area will prevail, only time will tell.

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Remember When You Could Fire the FBI Director Without Getting a Lot of Flak?

So the President has fired the FBI Director.  I’m surprised it took this long.  Maybe the FBI Director owed the President money for a lost bet, and the President figured as long as the Director was still in Washington, I’ll have a better chance of collecting.

In the second season of The Apprentice, there was an episode where the contestants were tasked with creating a dog grooming business.  at the end of the episode the businesses were reviewed by the host, our current President, and he decided that they very worst performance was that of a contest named Stacy.  “Your charity was the Kitty Kat Shelter.  Why would dogs care about cats?  Stacy, you’re fired.”

Almost immediately, there were calls to appoint a special investigator to investigate Stacy’s ties to cats.  It turned out that two months before she appeared on The Apprentice, Stacy had met in a hotel room with a Maine Coon and two tabbies.  Her aides had originally denied the meeting but a few gray and orange hairs were found on her jacket.

Then there were calls to investigate the cats.  At first no one could find them.  But one of the cats was caught posting photos on Facebook of a party where Stacy and the President were in attendance.  The cat was issued a subpoena to testify before Congress, but his attorney sent a message that his client was sleeping and would not awake for several years.

Then there arose a rumor that there were videos of the cats paying Stacy in return for her designating the Kitty Kat Shelter as the beneficiary of the dog grooming business on The Apprentice.  The videos were also subpoenaed.  But the cat’s attorney replied that the tapes were no longer in existence, but were of the cats just squeezing into baskets and so were completely useless (although still very cute).

The whole affair was dying down and the media were about to give up and go back to covering Nicole Kidman’s strange clapping at the Academy Awards.  But then they got a break.  The President tweeted that “These cats better hope their breath doesn’t smell like tuna fish!”  This tweet was considered unusually enigmatic, even for the President, and breathed new life into the investigation.  Soon a connection through a company that manufactured tuna fish was revealed.  It turned out that the President, early in his career as a real estate developer has owned a piece of a tuna fish company and had used cats for quality control.  When the cats complained about the low wages and infrequent changes of kitty litter, he locked them in a room and made them taste tuna fish all day long, permitting only 12 hours a day for naps.

After the company went bankrupt and the cats escaped when someone opened the door to grab the paper, the cats later blackmailed the President into paying them.  So he came up with a scheme to funnel money raised on The Apprentice to these cats, using Stacy as a pawn.  When Stacy threatened to reveal the real reason why a dog grooming business was benefiting a bunch of cats, the President fired her, claiming the reason was her poor management skills and bad decision-making.

When all was revealed it had the making of the greatest scandal since Watergate, encompassing all levels of government and the animal kingdom.  No one thought that the President would be able to bounce back.  But then House of Representatives passed a bill cutting aid to people who clap strangely (and their dependents) and everyone forgot about Stacygate.

Happy Mother’s Day to all Mothers!

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Remember When the President Lived at the White House?

It was nearly 100 days into his presidency, and Donald Trump had spent half of his weekends as president at a private resort in Florida.  There, in addition to playing golf, he held cabinet meetings, met with foreign dignitaries, and, while enjoying a candlelit dinner on the patio, reviewed evidence of North Korea’s ballistic missile testing.  Many people criticized him for not spending enough time at the traditional home office of the nation’s chief executive.  But the press secretary assured the nation that the president “carries the apparatus of the White House” wherever he goes.

As the weekend trips to Florida continued, the criticism continued.  They complained and complained and drew charts and tables showing how much more President Trump spent on travel than President Obama, than Franklin Roosevelt, than Abraham Lincoln.  On the last day of Trump’s presidency, a major newspaper posted a graphic showing that, on average, Trump spent more on travel in five minutes than George Washington did in his entire life.  And so it was believed that this was the end of the dual residence president.

But the next president wanted to spend weekends in a cabin in the Adirondack Mountains of New York.  Although a cabin in the woods was much quieter a fancy Palm Beach resort, so many tree houses had to be built to house the secret service, White House staff, and visiting dignitaries that the eastern meadowlarks and three-toed woodpeckers had to be relocated to the nearest Best Western, to the annoyance of animal rights advocates and hotel cleaning staff.

People figured that after a resort president and a nature president, it would be the end of the president spending half his time as president living someplace other than the White House.  But the next president announced in his inauguration speech that he would be spending weekends in a cave.  He assured the American people that because the cave had only one entry way, far fewer secret service agents would be required.  And this was true, although cabinet members disliked having to sit upon rocks during meetings rather than chairs.

After the cavern president, people were no longer surprised at the president choosing to spend time at an alternate residence.  In fact, they began to expect it.  Getting to live wherever the president wanted became one of the perks and political prizes of winning the election.  During the presidential campaign season, political commentators would analyze the candidates’ likely choice of residence alongside their views on domestic and foreign policy.  And it was not uncommon to overhear ordinary people saying things like, “Yes, I think it’s time that America had a president who lived in the Cinderella Castle at Disney World.”

The “Presidential Residence Agent” became a permanent position on every presidential campaign staff as the candidates became more and more creative in their choice of residence.  The effort paid off.  One president wanted to spend his term voyaging under the seas like Captain Nemo. The army corps of engineers built a special submarine residence called the Nautilus which the radical liberal Marxist Leninist media dubbed the “Thought-a-Less.”  And after that was a president who opted for a crystal palace at the North Pole, modeled after Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. There was international tension because of the proximity to the Russian border. But we removed our opposition to Russia’s plan to turn the Caspian Sea into a giant samovar, and crisis was averted.

And then there was the president who did not like to travel.  Don’t ask me how he got elected.  Obviously someone tampered with the voting booths.  But nevertheless there he was, ready to move in to the White House and occupy it as his only residence…and it turned out that someone else was there.  The White House had been shunned as a residence for so long that it had been leased to a group of elephant trainers, and the new president and his family had to live at the Hampton Inn in a room next to the eastern meadowlarks and three-toed woodpeckers.

———————

Sources:

https://www.usnews.com/news/national-news/articles/2017-03-20/spicer-golf-part-of-being-president-but-potus-doesnt-always-play-on-trips-to-courses

http://www.adirondack.net/wildlife/birding/

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Remember That Time We Saved 34 Acres of Forest?

Yesterday, the Shenendehowa Central School District held a public referendum on whether to sell 34 acres of forest to a developer.  The issue was very contentious and generated a lot of argument and activity.  The Friends of Clifton Park Open Space ran a great campaign to vote “no” and thankfully the proposed sale was rejected by the voters, 5,442 to 2,323.  There is hope after all.

A few weekends ago I took the opportunity to hike through the 34 acres that have generated so much passion and pride.  Below are some of the photos I took.


And it just so happens this is my 200th post!  What a way to celebrate!

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Remember When It Seemed Like Christmas Was Far Away?

santa bear

Photo taken October 7.

Remember when you were in school, and it seemed like the month of December that was after Thanksgiving but before the beginning of Christmas break, took an eternity to pass?  When you’d think, “Oh, it’s only December 12th?  Christmas will never arrive.”

Nothing like Christmas makes me aware of how fast the year goes.  I feel like it was just that time of year when every other commercial is about men’s college basketball.

I wondered if there was a way to make Christmas start later.  So I started a campaign on Facebook to move Christmas to mid-January or even February.  And I got people to support me.  I was very clever.  I posted on people’s Facebook walls that I was tapping them for the “Christmas – Paper Towel Tube Challenge.”  The challenge was to film yourself putting one of those cardboard tubes at the inside of rolls of paper towels.  and speak into it like one would a megaphone.

It became very popular and before long I had a million Facebook users saying move Christmas to February 15 so that it would feel like the year was longer.  There was a referendum and a very close vote, and more than one accusation of cheating.

But when all was said and done, the ayes had it and Christmas – the biggest holiday of the year – was moved to mid-February, a month and three weeks from its usual spot.

Oh sure, people loved the extra shopping time at first.  But the next thing they knew, it was February 12, Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, and everyone was stressed out.

So there was another campaign on social media, and another referendum, and another close vote, and Christmas was now scheduled for May 22nd.

Why people did not foresee this causing conflict with graduation ceremonies and celebrations is one of the larger questions to arise from this episode.  An easier question might be why they decided to move the holiday once again.  Naturally they had another referendum – most people cast their votes early this time – and Christmas Day from the previous year is moved once again, this time to September.

This was later viewed, correctly I believe, as a mere stopgap measure.  All voters, no matter yea or nay, knew that with the start of another school year, and the Jewish holidays, that a September Christmas was dead in the water.  At the eleventh hour the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a create was stirring, not even a mouse, the Christmas from the previous year was moved to December 25th of the current year, so there would be two Christmases on the same day.  People had to buy last year’s and this year’s gifts at the same time.  Retailers never had it so good.  And so it was decreed that henceforth every Christmas would be a double Christmas.

People still wait until the last minute to shop and are stressed out leading up to that minute.  But the double the joy on the children’s faces more than makes up for it.

 

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Remember When There Wasn’t All This Hacking of Emails?

I recently received a message saying that my email account “has been implicated in a security breach.”  After I calmed down and stopped pacing around with my hands in the air, asking “Why me?”, I wondered what these hackers could possibly have wanted with my emails….

“Captain, what have we found, if anything, from the emails?”dirty keyboard

“Well, sir, we have discovered that his sister is coming over to visit in a few weeks, and that he has a 20% off coupon to Target.”

“Hmm.  Not sure what I’m going to do with that yet.  But go on.  What else did you find?”

“He is delinquent in reading all emails from The Wooden Spoon Store.”

“Well, that is interesting.  Do you know what that means?”

“No, sir.”

“Obviously the account custodian is involved in a ideological battle with this retailer.  Run with it!”

The story that The Wooden Spoon Store along with other online retailers was involved in an ideological battle with me tarnished its squeaky clean image and hurt sales.  I was interviewed several times about my thoughts on the store.

They shoved microphones in my face, and asked, “Why did you not read those emails from the Wooden Spoon Store?”

“Because I don’t use wooden spoons,” I replied.

Then the FBI announced in an unsigned letter that they were “taking a closer look at a few emails that merit a closer look” and  I had to testify before Congress.

“Mr. Kaplowitz, it says here according to this email dated…ah, where is the date.  Excuse me,” turning to his right, “Senator, can you help me? Where is that email I was going to talk about?”

“Um, I don’t know, Senator.  You had all your papers on your table.”

“I did?  Well, anyway.  Mr. Kaplowitz, I understand that you believe that the Wooden Spoon Store is manipulating the market for wooden spoons.  What evidence do you have to back that up?”

“I don’t have any evidence.  And I never said that the store was manipulating anything.”

“You didn’t?”

“Well, it was taken out of context.”

At my sentencing for violation of the Fancy Kitchen Wares in Lawful Commerce Act and a slew of other fraud and obstruction of justice charges, I was given the opportunity to address the judge and all three employees of the Wooden Spoon Store.

“To my fellow human beings, I am sorry that I never read the emails you sent me, advising me of specials and other deals.  I should have taken the Terms of Service more seriously.  This was grievous error and I am glad that I am going to be punished for it.”

I served my time in a special prison for hackers, computer fraudsters, and people who post on Facebook about their long distance running.  These fellow inmates taught me how to read online newspapers without paying.  Upon my release for good hygiene, I put this skill to use and today I read upwards of four articles a day without paying for them.

Have I traded one kind of fraud for another?  Perhaps.  But a man’s got to make a living somehow.

 

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