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*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

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.

When this .plan was written: 2002-07-24 18:16:32
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