If I knew that updating a .plan file was this entertaining, I would have started doing semi-regular updates a long time ago. Oh well. My web space is located at http://nuthouse.org/~hendersa and I can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Archived .plan entries can be seen at http://nuthouse.org/~hendersa/finger. ************************************************** *24 July 2002 - The Ninjas of Southern California* ************************************************** Ever since the quick little status update I did for my last .plan update, I've been receiving a lot of e-mail. By "a lot", I mean "more than my daily average of about 30 messages". This large influx of mail falls into three categories: 1. Probably about 20% of the mail I get consists of pleadings for updates on the wedding story. I know, I know... you people want to know what happens. You want to read about me getting tormented. And I'm getting to it... I promise. 2. A small-ish amount, maybe only 5% or so, are people saying that they hope I recover from whatever the heck is hurting me. To these folks, I have to offer a big thank you. I've been getting so much mail that I'm really, REALLY falling behind in answering it, but I want to thank all of you folks that don't even know me for your concern. You guys rock. 3. The remaining three-fourths of the mail I've gotten since my last update has been pertaining to the topic of ninjas. My reasoning that "I couldn't have been poisoned by a ninja" because I "haven't seen any ninjas with blowguns in the area" has been met with a variety of disagreement. You folks all appear to think that ninjas are completely invisible and undetectable by anything less than another ninja. But, that's where you'd be wrong. I see ninjas all the time. Maybe this means I'm a ninja myself, but I hardly think those guys are invisible. Perhaps by calling your attention to the ninjas that exist right under your nose, you'll realize that such amazing critters were surrounding you all along. Anyway, without further ado, I'll describe two different types of ninja that not only exist in southern California today, but that I also see on almost a daily basis. Ninja Variety #1: Coffee Ninja I hardly doubt this particular guy is only found in southern California. In fact, I imagine these particular ninjas exist all over the world. I work in a big office building. Scattered here and there throughout the building are little kitchen areas that have a refrigerator, sink, and coffee machines containing various coffee pots. The idea is that coffee is made freely available to the employees, but when you happen to take the last of the coffee in one of the pots, it's your duty to make a fresh pot of coffee. Making a pot of coffee is NOT a complicated task. You don't even need to measure any coffee crystals or fiddle with filters or anything, since we use premeasured portions of coffee in little filter-like packets. You just pop the packet in the top of the machine, dump a pot of hot water into the little area above the packet, and put the pot in place to catch the trickle of freshly-brewed coffee. This is NOT hard to do. The Coffee Ninja, however, would never be bound by such a silly rule. Utilizing stealth, a Coffee Ninja will bolt into the room, pour a cup of coffee, and depart before anyone can notice. This is usually followed by someone saying, "Hey... who in the hell took the last of the coffee and didn't make more??". Therefore, the victim of the Coffee Ninja is simply the next guy that wants a cup of coffee, since he has to stand there and wait for a cup or so of coffee to brew. I have watched in amazement as Coffee Ninjas use rolling mail carts as cover to get into the kitchen unseen. I've watched them grab packets of cream and sugar on quick trips into the coffee area so that they can add to their coffee from the safety of a location far away from the scene of the crime. Hell, I've even seen one Coffee Ninja empty a pot and then pour a portion of another pot into the one he just emptied. There's no doubt that being a Coffee Ninja is a task best left for the creative, yet morally defunct, members of your workplace. Other variants of the Coffee Ninja are the Watercooler Ninja and the Doughnut Ninja. Ninja Variety #2: Tollbooth Ninja Toll roads are a major convienience where I live. With traffic becoming worse and worse, a few coins from your pocket and a quick trip on the toll road can shave 30 to 45 minutes off of your daily commute to work. So, I take the toll roads as much as I can. I see the dollar or so I spend on tolls each day as an investment into more free time later on. There are unmanned tollbooths at each entrance and exit from the toll road. These booths consist of two traffic lanes, one going to the left of the tollbooth and one going to the right of the tollbooth. The lane to the right is the "exact change only" lane, which consists of a big basket that you throw your change into. You throw in the amount of the toll, the light turns green, and away you go. If you don't put the money in and you just drive on through, a siren sounds and a high-speed camera takes a picture of your car's rear license plate. A ticket for an obscenely high fine then arrives in your mailbox a week or two later. The lane to the left has no basket, but it still charges you for using the tollroad. The left lane requires you to have a little gizmo called a "speedpass" mounted on your vehicle's windshield. When you drive through, a sensor picks up the signal from your speedpass and then notes that you have used the tollbooth. The speedpass is registered to your vehicle, so at the end of each month you get a bill in the mail for the tolls that you have racked up over the month. Of course, if you just blast through the speedpass lane without actually having a speedpass, another one of those high-speed camera snaps a picture of your rear license plate and another massive ticket shows up in the mail. It's unofficially agreed upon that it's your patriotic duty to pass through the speedpass lane of the tollbooth at a speed of no less than Warp 2. Quite often, a long chain of vehicles will zip through the tollbooth in a high-speed caravan that generates a very loud WHOOSHWHOOSHWHOOSH-type noise for those people (such as myself) that are at a dead stop in the other lane and in the process of throwing a handful of change into the tollbooth's change basket. Take a moment to consider what would happen if you were sitting at a dead standstill in the speedpass lane of the tollbooth. First off, you'd probably get your vehicle rear-ended when some yahoo in an SUV comes blasting up to you at around 60 MPH and doesn't realize you aren't moving until it is too late. If you don't get your vehicle crunched, you're going to get an earful of car horns and obscenities as the driver of said SUV lets you know what he or she thinks of your lack of speed. The Tollbooth Ninja takes advantage of this rush-rush nature. It goes without saying that the person behind you is going to drive right up to the back of your car in order to better demonstrate the fact that he is NOT PLEASED that a non-moving vehicle such as you are in front of him. The wily Tollbooth Ninja will then slowly creep forward with this other vehicle right on his tail. When the high-speed camera takes a picture of the Tollbooth Ninja's rear license plate, it will actually be taking a picture of the front quarterpanel of the vehicle BEHIND the Tollbooth Ninja. Thus, the Tollbooth Ninja uses his amazing powers to avoid paying 25 cents. Being a ninja has certainly lost a bit of it's glamour. So there you have it... proof that ninjas are quite visible if you happen to be looking for them. Or, I might just be a ninja myself... you never know.