Thursday, May 25, 2006

Going Ballistic

Dear Indigna,

I just learned that a teacher at a Mill Valley, CA high school has for years been teaching a lesson in which he shoots a rifle at a block of wood suspended from the ceiling in his classroom and has the students determine the velocity of the bullet from the motion of the block. He shoots a rifle loaded with live ammunition inside a classroom. Can you believe this?

Stunned Parent
Mill Valley, CA

Dear Stunned,

It truly is hard to believe how incredibly creative teachers can be! Finally, a class that helps students understand the real world application of their lessons. This sounds like a terrific experiment, especially for those students who need to learn the calculations necessary to determine a safe distance that will ensure they hit their target but still have time to get away when taking potshots at the neighbors. I understand this gifted educator also teaches a popular lesson meant to inspire future emergency room physicians, CSI technicians or disgruntled spouses in which small animals are stabbed various numbers of times in different ways and locations to determine the quickest death from the fewest wounds, involving calculations of blood volume, spurt force, and likelihood of getting fingered. In his honors classes, the senior project is to construct a functioning light saber from materials commonly found in the average suburban kitchen and successfully slay an evildoer.

Although apparently somebody has complained about the “ballistic pendulum” lesson, since the story is in the newspaper, the school’s Principal, Bob Holleran, noted that this experiment is “OK because of the educational value . . . students get a lot out of it. It's an interesting and dramatic example of physics in action." I couldn’t agree more. I can think of number of similar experiments we should introduce to teach students how to use chemistry, wood shop, even creative accounting to improve their recreational lives, get rid of annoying problems and inconvenient relatives, and boost their bank accounts.

Mission Statement

Dear Indigna,

I guess I’m going to be deployed to the Mexican border next week as part of Bush’s “immigration plan.” They say we’ll be there just one to two years, but how long do you think we’ll really be there?

National Guardsman
Huntsville, TN

Dear Soldier,

We’ll be there as long as it takes, but that will probably be only a few weeks. Bush is certain that the Guardsmen will be welcomed as liberators for the millions of undocumented farm workers, landscapers and domestics who labor under horrendous conditions in American fields and suburbs. The Guard’s mission is clearly defined and limited: find and secure the WMDs (women and men deportees) and train the Border Patrol to take over security. As the Border Patrol stands up, we will stand down and move on to our next mission: regime change in South Central Los Angeles.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Damaged Goods

Dear Indigna,

I live in Florida and decided to downsize last year. After selling my 7,000 sf house and while waiting for my much smaller 5,000 sf penthouse to be completed, I rented a tiny little 3,000 sf condo in the same area. I treated that place even better than my own, going so far as to have a cleaning lady in weekly and not even putting pictures up on the wall! (Of course, it was easier to keep my Renoirs in their climate-controlled storage, but still, it was a sacrifice.) Imagine my surprise when I moved out and my movers discovered that there was a huge stain under my pedestal table! Clearly, the landlord is to blame for failing to properly maintain my furniture.

Although she has somehow figured out how to restrict the obvious slab leak to the two square feet under the plant table, the one my dog liked to pee against, it is obvious that she has caused considerable damage to my belongings, not to mention all my other furnishings, which now must be refinished or replaced so that everything matches. Despite her malfeasance, the bitch has kept part of my security deposit for “carpet repair”!!

I spoke to her recently on the telephone, and she acted all “surprised” that I was planning to sue her in civil court for not only my full security deposit but also for a new houseful of furniture and emotional distress not only to me, but to my dog (who was deeply insulted at the implied imputation that he might have had something to do with it). She kept going on and on about her “professional house inspection” and “carpet professional” and “indoor air quality consultant” and all this other scientific mumbo-jumbo (she probably believes in evolution too). But I know what I know. I may not have the fancy-pants “scientific reports” and “facts” and “witnesses” and “evidence” to “prove” things, but I know I am right, because how else could my furniture have been damaged? She claims it’s because I didn’t run the air conditioner enough to dehumidify the condo. Well, she wasn’t paying the bills, was she? Listen, Indians lived in Florida long before there were air conditioners and they didn’t find their furniture ruined! I kept those windows sealed tight; how could humidity have snuck in while I was at work? And I certainly couldn’t be expected to keep my windows open at night because I live alone (except for my Rottweiler)! Hey, I’m the one who sweated heavily through the entire time I lived there, with no relief! I should be compensated for that discomfort as well!

How do I get my point through to this idiot? I was willing to live with the stench of mildew, and now she’s telling me it was my responsibility to complain about it? How about her responsibility to have electronic sensors throughout the house that automatically inform the landlord and appropriate repair agency about any real or potential problems?

BTW, I am a little concerned that, as irrational as she is, she will take exception to the fact that I felt entitled to take the appliances and lighting fixtures with me when I left, as I had been paying for them these six months and they would go perfectly in my new place. However, I’m sure the judge will agree with my reasoning.

Enraged and Insulted
Delray Beach, FL

Dear Enraged,

Have you considered adding a charge of “conspiracy,” since her ability to only damage your one table and nothing else clearly required a lot of planning and assistance, as well as “loss of consortium” for both you and your dog? Obviously, you two could not have enjoyed the same level of “company” with all your worries about this egregious lack of care on the part of your landlord. She should have dusted and waxed your possessions weekly, and at the very least offered to refinish them once every six months. In addition, if she cared so much about her damn property, why was she not paying for your cleaning lady? Finally, if she wanted you to keep the place free of humidity, she should have paid for the air conditioning and/or the security guard needed if you kept your windows open!

That said, you want I should call in a favor? Because I know a guy who knows a guy who "takes care" of this sort of problem, and all you'd owe him would be a promise to do him a "favor" someday. Let me know how it turns out. I care.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

History Lesson

Dear Indigna,

What the hell? National Guard troops on the border with Mexico?? But they’re only there for “surveillance, reconnaissance, aviation, intelligence, engineering, training, vehicle dismantling, linguistics ... transportation and logistics”????? (Linguistics?) Listen, aren’t we already re-enacting Vietnam over in Iraq? I mean, sure, Bush has failed the history assignment Cheney gave him (prove we coulda won if Johnson and Nixon hadn’t been such pussies), but they’re already setting up Iran for another attempt; do we really need to threaten Mexico at the same time?

And let’s not forget, Bush is a “C” student at best. How many chances does he get?

Considering Canadian Citizenship
Cape Fear, NC

Dear Canuck-to-be,

Haven’t you been paying attention? I predicted the militarization of the border way back in April (see “Immigration I,” April 16, 2006). However, I see Bush is not opting for the “cybernetically-enhanced army” option but instead is using his fall-back position, the National Guard. Now, linguistics is a critical part of this whole operation. Did you know that a lot of people south of the border speak a different language? Part of the Guard’s mission is to study the national threat posed by “colonial, hypermetropic, and wishful linguistics,” phylogenetics, epistemic modality markers and other hedging strategies, secondary discourse ability and metalinguistic awareness, asynchronous forums, inflectional morphemes, polyphonic visibility, even aphasic interaction, and, most importantly of all, “is L2 ultimate attainment isomorphic with fossilization?” The ultimate goal is to determine if it might be possible to formulate some way to communicate with these people so that we could simply tell them to stop crossing the border, rather than having to shoot them.

Oh, and in California, he gets six to eight chances to pass and only has to get it 55% right.