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      Cyber Nations Forum Rules   07/03/2016

      Cyber Nations Forum Rules  
      In the process of registering on this forum, all players--including you--agreed to accept these terms and conditions and the terms and conditions of Invision Power Board. In doing so you essentially signed an electronic contract pledging to have read the rules and TOS and agreeing to follow the rules and TOS as written. It is your continued responsibility to read, follow, and keep up-to-date with the CN rules.
      The following are basic guidelines for use of the Cyber Nations community forum. Anyone caught disobeying these guidelines will be issued a warning. The forum staff works on a five warn limit policy unless the situation calls for more appropriate action ranging from a verbal warning to a double warn and suspension to an immediate ban, etc.   Just because something is not listed specifically here as illegal does not mean it's allowed. All players are expected to use common sense and are personally responsible for reading the pinned threads found in the Moderation forum. Questions regarding appropriateness or other concerns can be sent via PM to an appropriate moderator.   A permanent ban on the forums results in a game ban, and vice versa. Please note that the in-game warn system works on a "three strikes you're out" policy and that in-game actions (including warnings and deletions) may not be appealed. For more information regarding in-game rules please read the Cyber Nations Game Rules.   1.) First Warning
      2.) Second Warning
      3.) Third Warning (48 hour suspension at the forum)
      4.) Fourth Warning (120 hour suspension at the forum)
      5.) Permanent Ban   Game Bans and Forum Bans
      If you receive a 100% warn level on the forums, you will be subject to removal from the forums AND have your nation deleted and banned from the game at moderator(s) discretion.   If you are banned in the game, then you will be banned from the forums.   Process of Appeals
      Players may not appeal any in-game actions. This includes cheat flags, canceled trades, content removals, warn level increases, nation deletion, and bans from the game.   Players may appeal individual forum warnings. You may only appeal a warning if you can show with evidence that it was unwarranted or unduly harsh. If a reasonable amount of time has passed (no less than one month and preferably longer) in which you have demonstrated reformed behavior than you may request a warning level reduction. Wasting staff time with inappropriately filed reports and/or unfounded appeals will result in a warn level raise. Repeat incidences will result in a ban from the forum.   Bans are permanent. Banned players may appeal to the Senior Staff if they believe grounds exist (very, very rare) in which they state their case with evidence and why explain why they believe they deserve to be allowed back into Cyber Nations. This process is not quick and the investigation into cases may last three minutes or three weeks or more depending on the individual situation.   The only place where discussion of moderator action is acceptable is in the appropriate Moderation forum. Posting commentary on or disagreement with moderator action elsewhere will result in a warn level raise.   Posting
      All posts must be in English. Common phrases in other languages will be allowed so long as they are translated upon request. Foreign languages are permitted in signatures and avatars, however.   Certain areas of the forum require you to have a nation in either standard CN or CN:TE. If you have...   A SE and a TE nation: You get one forum account. Your forum account name must match your SE nation or ruler name. You are allowed to post in either SE or TE areas of the forum. You must have your CN:TE nation name listed in your profile to post in the CN:TE section of the forum.
      Just an SE nation: You get one forum account. Your forum account name must match your SE nation or ruler name. You are not allowed to post in any TE areas of the forum.
      Just a TE nation: You get one forum account. Your forum account name must match your TE nation name or ruler name. Your must have your CN:TE nation name listed correctly in your profile. You are not allowed to post in any of the SE areas. You are allowed to post in the water cooler, question center and the moderation forums. Other than that, all your posts need to stay in the TE area.   Flame/Flamebait/Trolling
      Flaming is expressing anger or lobbing insults at a person/player rather than a character, post, idea, etc. Flamebait are posts that are made with the aim of targeting/harassing/provoking another user into rule-breaking. Trolling is submitting posts with the aim of targeting/harassing/provoking a specific group into rule-breaking. Forum users should not be participating in any of these, and doing so will result in a warning.   Topic Hijacking
      Hijacking is forcing the current thread discussion off of the original topic and usually results in spam or flame from either side. Forum users found hijacking threads will be given a warning.   Repeat Topics
      One topic is enough. Repeat topics will be locked, removed, and the author given a warning. Users found creating repeat topics after others were locked by staff will receive a warn raise.   Joke Topics
      Topics created as a joke are prohibited. Joke topics will be locked and the author warned. This includes topics in which the author is making an announcement “for” another in-game alliance. Humorous threads are permitted; it is up to the discretion of the moderation staff to determine what is merely satire and what is actually a joke topic.   Spam
      Spam is defined as creating posts or topics containing only contentless material of any kind. Users found spamming will receive a warning. Examples include (but are in no way limited to) posts containing nothing but smilies, "+1", "QFT", "this" any other one/few-word contentless combination, joke threads, or posts containing quotes and anything that counts as spam by itself. Adding words to a post with the express intent of avoiding a spam warn will result in a warning. These posts and other similar contributions have no substance and hence are considered spam. Posts of "Ave", "Hail" or any other one word congratulatory type are acceptable as one word posts. Emoticon type posts such as "o/" without accompanying text is still not allowed. Posts containing only images are considered spam, unless the image is being used in the Alliance Politics sub-forum and then the actual text of the image be placed into spoiler tags.   Posting in All Caps
      Posting large amounts of text in capital letters is not permitted. Use discretion when using your caps lock key.   No Discussion Forums
      There are forums that are not for discussion and are used strictly for game and forum staff to address certain issues, bugs, etc. The following forums are not open to discussion: Report Game Abuse, Report Forum Abuse, and Warn/Ban Appeals. Only moderators and the original poster may post in a thread, period, with absolutely no exceptions. Users found disobeying this guideline will receive an automatic warning for each offense.   Moderation Forums
      All Moderation forums also maintain pinned threads clearly marked as required reading before posting. Failure to read and follow required reading and procedure in a Moderation forum will result in a warning. Examples include posting requests in the wrong forum, failure to include all required information in posts, etc. The standard of conduct and enforcement of rules in Moderation forums is strictly enforced and the repercussions for disregarding rules or disrespecting staff are harsh. Read the pinned threads before posting and you will be fine.   Namecalling
      Excessive or unqualified namecalling is not allowed in IC forums; namecalling should also never make up the bulk of a post. Namecalling is prohibited entirely in all OOC forums.   Filtered Words
      Any attempts to evade the word filter will result in a warning. The terms we have filtered are filtered for a reason and no excuse for evasion will be accepted. Filter evasion includes censoring or deliberately misspelling part of a filtered word.   If you link to a website, image, video, etc., containing profanity, please post a disclaimer before the link. The moderation staff may still remove links if the content is deemed too obscene.   Harassment
      Forum users should not be stalking/harassing others on the forums. Anyone found stalking players from topic to topic, etc., will be subject to a warning.   Gravedigging
      Gravedigging is not allowed anywhere on the forums. Gravedigging is "bumping" old topics which haven't been active for quite some time (four to seven days is standard depending on the nature of the thread and how many pages back it had been pushed before bump). Your warn level will be raised if you are caught doing this.   The Suggestion Box and Black Market forums are partial exceptions to this rule. Suggestions/ideas in that forum may be posted in regardless of age PROVIDING that the reviving post contains constructive, on-topic input to the original topic or discussion. Black Market threads may be bumped by the author if there is new information about the offered exchange (i.e open aid slots). In the Player Created Alliances forum it will not be considered gravedigging to bump a topic up to a year old, so long as the alliance in question still exists and it is not a duplicate thread.   Signatures
      Those who fail to read and abide by these rules will have their signatures removed and receive a warning.   You may have only one image per signature which may not exceed the maximum size of 450 pixels wide by 150 pixels tall. You may have no more than 8 lines of text and text size cannot exceed size 4. Each quote-tag, image and empty line count as a line.   Inappropriate Images and Other Disallowed Images
      Images that are sexual in nature or have sexual overtones are prohibited. It is up to the discretion of the moderation staff to determine what constitutes sexual overtones. Depictions of kissing are permissible provided there are no sexual implications. Images depicting female nipples are prohibited outright.   Making “ASCII art” is prohibited regardless of the image depicted.   Using photos or likenesses of another Cyber Nations player is also prohibited.   Drug References
      Images and posts promoting illegal drug use are prohibited. References to drugs are acceptable only if the moderation staff deems that it is not promoting the use thereof.   Obscene Content and/or "Account Suicide"
      Anyone caught posting vulgar material (including but in no way limited to pornography, "gross," "tubgirl," "lemonparty," photos depicting RL illegal acts such as violence towards humans or animals, child pornography, death photos, and any other obscene or offensive material in either text form or picture form) will have their account(s) permanently banned, and their ISP contacted along with any other applicable internet and RL authorities.   OOC Threats / Revealing Personal Information
      An OOC threat of any nature will equate to an automatic ban from the game and forums. Likewise, the publishing of personal information of any other player without their explicit permission is grounds for warning and/or a ban from the game depending on the severity of the offense.   Death Threats / Death Wishes
      A death threat or a death wish of any nature (including but not limited to telling another player to commit suicide) will result in at very least a 40% warn level increase and 2 day suspension from the forums, with harsher punishments, including a complete ban from the forums and game, up to the discretion of the moderation staff.   Quoting Rulebreaking Posts
      Do not quote any post with obscene content or any other content that has to be removed by the moderation staff. Doing so makes it more difficult for the moderation staff to find and remove all such content and will result in a warn level increase. Putting rulebreaking posts of any kind in your signature is prohibited.   Forum Names
      With the exception of moderator accounts, all forum accounts must match up exactly with the ruler name or nation name of your in-game country. Those found not matching up will be warned and banned immediately. Forum account names may not be profane or offensive.   Multiple Forum Accounts
      With the exception of moderators, if you are caught with multiple forum accounts, the multiple account(s) will be banned, warn level raised, and your identity will be announced by a moderator to the CN community so rule-abiding players can take IC action against you. Multiple forum account offenders will receive a varying percentage warn level raise and/or a permanent ban on a case-by-case basis.   Posting For Other Players
      Posting for banned or suspended players is prohibited, as is posting for any person without a nation. This includes making warn and ban appeals on their behalf.   Imitation &. Impersonation
      Imitation in terms of this forum is mimicking the posting, avatar, or signature styles of another user in an attempt to be satirical or generally humorous. Impersonation in terms of this forum is copying the posting, avatar, or signature styles of another user in order to present the illusion that the person is in fact that user. Imitation is fine and can be quite funny. Impersonation is disruptive and is warnable. Please pay attention to the subtle difference between these two concepts.   A player may not impersonate another player by emulating the characteristics of someone else's past or present account in an attempt to harass, stalk, or flamebait. Creating a new forum account in an attempt to impersonate a standing account will result in deletion and banning without notice.   Any attempt at imitation and/or impersonation of moderators and game staff is strictly prohibited and will be met with harsh repercussions.   Avatars
      Size for avatars is limited by the forum mechanics, therefore there is no size issue for a user to worry about. Avatars must be in good taste, and any avatar containing a picture that is too violent, disgusting, sexually explicit, insulting to another player or staff member, etc. will be removed. Avatars that are potentially seizure inducing will not be permitted. Players may not "borrow" the avatars of any moderator past or present without permission.   Swastikas and Nazi Imagery
      The swastika may not be used in signatures or avatars. Pictures of swastika's are acceptable for use in the In Character (IC) sections of the roleplay forums, so long as its context is In Character, and not Out Of Character. Pictures of Hitler, mentioning of the Holocaust, etc... have no place in the roleplay forums, since these people and events existed in real life, and have no bearing or place in the Cyberverse. Other Nazi or SS imagery is forbidden in all forums.   Moderation Staff
      The revealing of the private identities of any Cyber Nations staffers past or present is strictly prohibited, and thus no speculation/accusation of identity is allowed. Doing so is grounds for moderator action against your account appropriate to the offense, including a full forum/game ban.   Claims of moderator bias should be directed to the highest level of authority--the Head Game & Forum Mod/Admin, Keelah. Claims of moderator bias without supporting evidence is grounds for a warning.   Blatant disrespect of the moderator staff is strictly prohibited. This includes but is not limited to spoofing moderator accounts in any way, sig/avatar references, baiting, flaming, rude demands, mocking, attitude, and unsubstantiated claims of bias. They are volunteers hired to enforce the rules. If you have a problem with the way a moderator is enforcing the rules or the rules themselves please contact Keelah.   Attempting to use the moderation staff as a weapon by abusing the report system in an attempt to get another player warned or banned is strictly prohibited.   Do not ask about becoming or campaign to become a moderator. The moderators are drawn from CN membership but moderation positions are by invitation only. Asking to become one will substantially decrease your chances of ever being asked.   Aiding Rule Violators
      Any user found to know of a serious rule violation without reporting it to a game moderator (eg. knowledge of a user with multiple nations) will be given a warning or, in more serious cases, have their nation deleted.   Aiding Banned Players
      Any user found to be harboring, aiding or otherwise knowingly helping a banned user will be deleted. This includes knowing of their existence within the game without reporting it to the game-moderation staff.   Questionable Actions and Content
      The forum rules are not designed to cover every scenario. Any action that is seen to be counter-productive or harmful to the forum community may be met with moderator action against your account. The Cyber Nations Moderation Staff reserves the right to take action against your account without warning for any reason at any time.   Private Transactions
      Nation selling and other private transactions via such auction sites like eBay is against the Cyber Nations terms and conditions. While our moderators cannot control what people do outside of the game you are not allowed to promote such private exchanges on our forums without expressed permission from admin only. Anyone found to be engaging in such activity without permission will be banned from the game.   Advertising
      Advertising other browser games and forums is prohibited. Soliciting donations towards commercial causes is also prohibited. If you wish to ask for donations towards a charitable cause, please contact a moderator before doing so.   Extorting Donations
      Donations are excluded from any kind of IC payment. Anyone found extorting others for OOC payments will be warned in-game and/or banned.   Third Party Software
      Third party software is not allowed to be advertised on these forums by any means (post, signature, PM, etc). These programs can easily be used to put malware on the user's computer, and as such can cause huge security issues. Anybody who is caught spreading links to these will at the very least have their warning level increased.   Other Forum Terms & Rules   Please take a moment to review these rules detailed below. If you agree with them and wish to proceed with the registration, simply click the "Register" button below. To cancel this registration, simply hit the 'back' button on your browser.   Please remember that we are not responsible for any messages posted. We do not vouch for or warrant the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any message, and are not responsible for the contents of any message. USE THE WEB SITE AT YOUR OWN RISK. We will not be liable for any damages for any reason. THIS WEB SITE IS PROVIDED TO YOU "AS IS," WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EITHER EXPRESSED OR IMPLIED.   The messages express the views of the author of the message, not necessarily the views of this bulletin board. Any user who feels that a posted message is objectionable is encouraged to contact us immediately by email. We have the ability to remove objectionable messages and we will make every effort to do so, within a reasonable time frame, if we determine that removal is necessary.   You agree, through your use of this service, that you will not use this bulletin board to post any material which is knowingly false and/or defamatory, inaccurate, abusive, vulgar, hateful, harassing, obscene, profane, sexually oriented, threatening, invasive of a person's privacy, or otherwise violative of any law.   You agree not to post any copyrighted material unless the copyright is owned by you or by this bulletin board.
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About this blog

Deciphering reality

Entries in this blog

Barron von Hammer

Well, my daughter’s class had a field trip to a farm the other day. Riveting. The parents were invited and the whole lot of us boarded tractor-pulled wagons that meandered down a dirty uneven road to a sparse field. I could not help but feel some solidarity with grainy film showing the artificial smiles on Ukrainian peasants forced to till the field until a lone potato was extracted, the byproduct of forced collectivization in the former worker’s paradise known as the Soviet Union.

We then assembled in front of the centerpiece of the trip, a large barn that stood like an imposing monolith; like a bad game show host, the kids were exhorted by the appointed guide to guess what was behind the barn door. The kids offered various explanations as to what was indeed inside the barn (cows, horses, chickens, the farmer’s wife, etc). My daughter, showing the imagination inherited from her father, decided to rip the space-time continuum asunder with all of its constricting physical laws by suggesting that there was “another barn” inside (the result of her ongoing fascination with Matryoshka dolls in which each doll has another inside of it, resulting in smaller and smaller dolls being discovered upon investigation). Being somewhat excited she merely assumed that the barn itself must be self-replicating.

Alas, my daughter’s expectations were dashed when it was revealed (to a bewildering amount of fanfare) that the barn contained potatoes. Thousands of them. There was a hushed silence as the tour guide silently nodded her head in satisfaction as if to imply that these were no mere potatoes, they were the nectar of the gods, each potato a facsimile of the most coveted emerald. She then began to ask the group questions about the growing, nurturing and caring of potatoes. My wife, constantly nudging me to get more involved with her teachers (my retroactive attempt earlier was not terribly pleasing to her when, after the tour was delayed for an hour, I remarked to anyone within ear shot that her teachers had all the preparation of the Hindenburg ground crew; this was compounded by my insistence that she witness “how far I can hurl” one of these starchy emeralds, the resulting thump against an empty grain solo culminating in a sound not unlike incoming howitzer fire).

So I decided to get involved by answering the query “how are potatoes collected?” Judging from the horrified look exhibited by those in attendance, “migrant workers” is apparently incorrect.

The correct answer is “a harvester.”

Khrushchev would have not had a problem with that answer.

photo_zps39e3e60b.jpg

Barron von Hammer

Man of iron.

There comes a time in every man’s life when you are required to bravely stand and man the hell up. A time when you need to stand resolutely and stare into the yawning abyss of fear itself and silently proclaim “is that all you got?” And after asking this question, when darkness descends and the urge to surrender to spasmodic, urine-inducing fear is greatest, you must declare to the universe “Damn the heliocentric model of the solar system, the galaxies do in fact revolve around my gargantuan titanium balls.”

For me, that moment arrived today when I discovered that there was a large spider in my hat while in line at the “12 items or less” cashier lane at New Seasons market.

Barron von Hammer

My confession.

I have found it necessary to purge myself of the internal turmoil caused by not confessing some of the dark deeds in my life.

Confession number #1:

Many years ago I had a neighbor who was an ok guy at times but had turned into quite the dick the last couple of months we lived next to each other. I had my house up for sale when he came over with a puppy he had just bought the week previously and asked if I would take care of it for the six weeks he would be gone on some promotional tour he was doing for a product he was involved in. I reluctantly agreed. He named the dog Leon after his grandfather who he had been close to. As soon as he left I worked hard to get the dog to answer to a particular name I had chosen. For six weeks I incorporated Pavlovian conditioning in my interaction with the dog (feeding, playing with him, etc) and had him responding completely to his new christened name “Yahtzee.”

I sold the house and moved out two days after he came back. During that time he expressed dismay that his dog didn’t answer to his name. On the morning of my departure I quietly left a note on his door that I had re-named the dog and that he would only respond to “Yahtzee.” I understood he was quite livid. A week after I moved I received a phone call from my previous other neighbor complaining that said individual was running down the street screaming “Yahtzee” like a crazed lunatic late one night. Apparently the dog had escaped.

Several months later he was spotted at the park yelling “Yahtzee” every hundred feet or so, causing dozens of people to assume he was mentally unstable.

Barron von Hammer

The wager.

Cryptozoology is a guilty pleasure of mine. Grainy images, videos of anomalous objects, "In Search Of" episodes and an early adolescent inability to distinguish one of my great aunts from an enlarged bi-pedal hominid (leading to multiple sightings), has finally culminated in a great revelation. One of the great mysteries in my life is about to end. This summer the existence of the infamous creature known as Bigfoot will be proven. Of this I am sure. My close friends and I discuss this subject with great earnest as the day draws near. Even those friends of mine who disagree with me try to be objective in weighing the evidence. There is one though who holds my views in disdain.

My beloved wife mocks me. She dismisses my views with the wave of her hand as if she were Julius Caesar dispatching legions across the Rubicon. Any attempt on my part to broker a discussion on the latest news, sightings, findings, etc, evaporates like a butterfly in a blast furnace. At first I thought it was the subject matter, maybe she didn’t understand the complex nature of aligning eye-witness reports with our current understanding of zoology, trying to build a paradigm of what said creature could be and the implications it would entail for understanding the physical world as we know it, etc. I consoled myself with this new explanation concerning her intolerant behavior. She could not comprehend what she did not understand, in the same manner one would experience in trying to explain fabric softener to a starving African child. It was doomed to failure. It was blind ignorance that caused her to be so callous and unfeeling concerning a subject that was intertwined with childhood memories such as apple pie, baseball and rampant infidelity.

Unfortunately I was under illusion, she did understand. And thought it completely ludicrous. Lately though I have approached the subject in a completely different way, appealing to her marital instincts and asking that she listen to my defense as a loving testament to what a spouse does to maintain marital bliss. This was only a temporal and hastily expedient solution as her facial expression while listening to my argument could easily be confused with "Liberace looking at a vagina".

So a bet was made. A large one, detailing sordid sexual activity, humiliation, and the exchange of enough DNA to populate a thriving lunar colony. And that is just me. As for her stipulations let’s just say I don’t relish the prospect of wiping my ass with burlap for two straight weeks or viewing back-to-back episodes of Mama’s Family until the entire 130 episode run has been seared into my brain, one of only a few stipulations in a dantesque wager of hellish torment. I have until the end of summer (or should I say she has till the end of summer).

To channel that great seer from 1976, “the stakes are high and so am I, it’s in the air tonight, it’s a free-for-all.”

Barron von Hammer

Anya and I, with our two children, live outside a large city in the Southeastern U.S. Like many, we moved from the midtown area when crime was rising and moved to a small town outside the city, about 30 minutes away. This small town is at the crossroads between a large city and a rural countryside that extends for hundreds of miles. Unfortunately we have to move again for occupational reasons (getting transferred); our eventual resting place will be 1500 miles away. Therefore we had to necessitate getting the house ready for sale. Anya, who loves interior work to begin with, took over the task of hiring the appropriate personnel to renovate those areas that the home inspector deemed necessary to work on, the reason being is that her company is taking over the house and wants to make sure it is in the best shape possible. Now my wife has a knack of hiring those that are good at their profession but also those that are simply the most bizarre in their profession, a strange dichotomy that to this day defies any attempt on my part to understand this bizarre duality. The fact that we are just far enough to justify hiring the local help probably does not help the situation. The below occurred over a 48 hour period in the hottest week of August.

The first was a painter who came over and gave us an estimate for the house (it was, like the others who followed, someone that Anya had called thereby insuring that it would be an individual unerringly from the pages of H.P. Lovecraft). I was by myself and upon greeting me he asked me what he was there for, an odd remark considering that he was coming over in response to our request for an appraisal. “We want to get the house painted” I replied. Ah yes. He walked slowly from room to room, seemingly making mental notes about square footage, paint integrity, price, flat vs gloss…or so I surmised. Instead I got this: “You ever had a vasectomy?” Baffled I replied that I had not. “Well you don’t know what you are missing.” He then began to explain about the freedom he enjoyed from ridding himself of the wanton risk of impregnating his wife. He misconstrued my perplexed countenance completely by trying to alleviate me that “it didn’t hurt as much as you might think.” I stared at him as if he were behind glass, a representative of some species with a Latin designation that signified an irrational instability usually associated within the confines of a meth lab. As we went from room to room his entire conversation was an amalgamation of medical terms, the application of a matte finish, and what constitutes a feasible vasectomy and the price required to achieve either. To this day I don’t know if he was an urologist who painted or a painter who had a morbid fascination with my testicles.

In addition to the cosmetic corrections that must be made there is the insistence by the realtor that it would help by getting a new stove to compliment a soon to be renovated kitchen. Finally we get a crew in and the house is full of painters and two Sears delivery men arrive bringing in the new stove. First though they must eradicate the old stove from its moorings and this ends up being a difficult task so I give them a hand. The two of them have trouble negotiating the turn out of the house with the old stove in tow so once again I come over to help them, at the same time two painters are coming up with a bucket of paint thinner. It is raining pretty hard and as the three of us are going down the steep driveway dumbass #1 loses control of the trolley causing the stove to speed up its descent to the street. Dumbass #2 tries to grab the stove but ends up colliding with me and the two approaching painters (inexplicably grabbing my hat in the process for some reason, as if to say "This stove is out of control; I'm grabbing that guy's hat."). I hit the ground hard but not before I bring down two Mexicans and a Jamaican named "Demonde." I am bleeding from the knee down and now have paint thinner sipping into it. Dumbass #3 (me) grabs a tube of petroleum jelly out of the medicine cabinet thinking it is the Neosporin (they look just alike). So now I have ground in the thinner residue with a prodigious helping of petroleum jelly. I am now on fire.

While nursing my wound the winpor guy arrives to replace a large window in the living room that had a hairline crack. He proceeds to give me a history of how glass is made. In Louisiana. Shreveport to be exact. He expounds on transition temperatures, structural integrity, and other such technical details that end up begetting conversational material that is only slightly less exciting than a quilt festival. It was a fascinatingly dull conversation in which I lapsed into a fixed stare at the center of his forehead, an unrepentant gaze that would have impressed even the most hardened of epileptics. It was at this point that I left my body. His voice slowly faded away, only his lips moving as I entered the ethereal plane and enjoyed a chess game with a scantily clad Croatian woman of a sordid reputation. Unfortunately I had to leave the game early and arrive back into our living room in time to answer his repeated query, "Well do you want me to order it or not?"

Now the roofing guy insists I go up the ladder to see the shingles he is replacing. Both of them. Two 4x6 shingles. As if I was in danger of not taking his word for it (could he possibly only be replacing one shingle and charging me an extra seven dollars?) So I went up there. And stared; me and one heavily set repairman standing on my roof staring at a shingle for ten minutes. Why ten minutes? Because this individual, knowing the magnetic pull of my reputed curiosity for all things mundane decided to tell me about the worst roofing repair job he had ever done, a topic only slightly less interesting than a recital of the periodic table (which I enumerated privately to keep my dwindling sanity). That's when she beckoned me, the Croatian woman, somewhere between sulfur and phosphorus. I left my body once again and we frolicked through fields of green but alas I had to come back as my astute rhetorician was descending the ladder. Unfortunately he stopped halfway down to talk to me some more, so now for the next five minutes there were the two of us, sturdy men bonding together while one of them suffers the temporal burns that a aluminum ladder sitting in the hot sun can produce.

I can't wait for the plumber.

The plumber (and his apprentice who was barely coherent) arrived promptly at eight am. While entering the house he assured me that he was “the best plumber in Fayette county” and proceeded to tighten his tool belt six inches below his waistline as if he was ready to protect his reputation by whipping out a battery powered drill and applying it prodigiously to anything (or anyone) who dared question his claim. While looking over the litany of complaints that our obsessively attentive assessor had compiled, he dropped on to the kitchen counter his hat, cell phone and curiously enough a copy of the latest Farmer’s Almanac, as if he was prepared for any eventuality. It was comforting to know that in addition to satisfying our plumbing needs he could also answer any questions as to how long one could get an ear of corn through the innovative use of fertilizer or how to alleviate the lingering effects of a bee sting by applying some long forgotten Appalachian wisdom.

With his mute assistant at his side he explained what he was going to do and several minutes into this one-sided “conversation” he began to pepper his speech with colloquial witticisms. I use that term loosely as I had not the foggiest notion what he was attempting to imply. In explaining the usage of the drip valve he exclaimed that “two frogs don’t swim in a leaky barrel.” What? Two frogs won’t swim in a leaky barrel? Why? Do they have the capacity to differentiate between a leaky barrel and one that is not leaking? How do they accomplish this? How do they get into a standing barrel in the first place? And why two frogs? Would one swim in a leaky barrel but not if accompanied by another of its own kind? While trying to understand the ramifications of amphibian intelligence his mute assistant suddenly discovered his voice and began laughing as if to imply that the joke is on me…two frogs will indeed swim in a leaky barrel. What this had to do with the acquisition and installation of a pvc valve was beyond me. At this point I was beginning to form my own colloquial witticism such as “two plumbers can’t breathe in a sealed container.”

They then moved onto the bathrooms and began working. Half an hour later I saw them walking up and down the hall when they walked into the living room and asked me “where is the upstairs?” Apparently after a fruitless search they could not find the stairs. I had never been asked this before and was afraid of pointing upward for fear their gaze would be transfixed at that particular point in the ceiling right above me. I told them to open the door right before our bedroom; he immediately responded with some droning anecdote about a set of stairs that had previously confused them on an earlier job. He continued his invocation to the gods of topographical confusion when I suddenly noticed a strong wind and a blinding light emanate from the dining room. It was her, my scantily clad Croatian woman. With an enticing gaze she beckoned me from the netherworld to leave this place and join her on the other side. I floated toward her when she suddenly disappeared; the electrician had knocked on the door.

The plumbers departed to find their elusive quarry while I answered the door, greeting a large man who looked as though he had just finished river bathing. If there is ever a scientific qualification of what it means to be a “good ole boy” then surely this is their template. He came equipped with a screwdriver, a LED reader and a t-shirt that listed ten reasons why drinking beer is preferable to that of having a wife. He introduced himself as “Stan, I’m your man” and told me he lived behind Gus’s fried chicken shack on I-64. This comment was momentarily disturbing to me as the only thing I had observed behind Gus’s fried chicken shack was a dilapidated picnic table and two rusting 55 gallon drums. Nevertheless my fears were allayed by his experience in correcting our electrical problems as listed by the assessor. While he worked in the kitchen I sat down at the table and began reading my book. Trying to initiate small talk he asked what I was reading, I replied “The Age of Napoleon.” He commented that while he liked the movie and it made him laugh he could not see himself reading it. Seeing my confused look he commented that “the chickens have sharp talons.” It was obvious that the Napoleon of antiquity was not the one he had in mind. I replied that this was Napoleon of France in which he retorted that he usually doesn’t like foreign movies but if it was as funny as the American version he would give it a chance. I thanked him.

Half an hour passed before he attempted to engage me in conversation again while working on an outlet under the microwave. He surmised that we were moving (his perceptive ability was stunning) and asked me where. I replied Portland, Oregon. “Better take your gun then.” I asked why, he replied “because there are a lot of bunny lovers out there.” Bunny lovers? In Portland? Was this some sort of sordid sect? Seeing my confusion he clarified. He explained that there were radical groups of people who would interfere with your hunting, not wanting any animals to be harmed. Apparently he had seen my itinerary for this year:

a) Move to Portland.

b) Hunt rabbits.

He told me that when hunting, hunters needed to arm themselves against these nomadic tribes of ethical warriors that roamed the countryside. This was confusing to me as I thought hunters were already armed to begin with.

Again she beckoned me, to travel with her to the Emerald city.

“Well we are done.” The plumbers had finished. His assistant revealed his incredible grasp of intuition by noting that as I had “a lot of books up there” that I “must like to read a lot.” Especially biographies on Napoleon Dynamite I privately surmised. As I wrote him a check for the amount billed I asked him if everything was all right as I had smelled some gas when they were working on the furnace heater. He stated that they had briefly disconnected the gas line to check it and that the gas was residue that should dissipate. He assured me there would be no problems with their repairs but added “then again you can’t teach a barn owl to whistle.” What? Who would do such a thing? And why? In the kitchen the electrician, overhearing the conversation laughed.

In the distance someone strummed a banjo.

Afterward the electrician spent 20 minutes (in which he eradicated the notion of time being linear) telling me how to successfully hunt coyote. What about me screams Allan "the coyote hunter?" What could have possibly alerted him that I was interested in this subject? As I was trapped at the moment (feeding my son Jack) he told me of the bait used, the traps employed, and the ways to mask your scent and how to skin them. I was horrified. This sudden knowledge could only be useful within an apocalyptic scenario in which a mysterious plague wipes out most of mankind and leaves only me and millions of ravenous coyotes. I am now in the possession of the suddenly profound knowledge of how to eradicate certain scavengers within Fayette County. Sadly I found myself regretting not being able to use these suddenly acquired skills to rid myself of local electricians.

He then told me that he also had a daughter Maya's age and was raising her to be a "hunter/gatherer;" which is useful if Western civilization collapses and our economy is reduced to bartering beaver pelts and exchanging fire.

Who are these individuals? Does my wife purposefully combine the words "handyman" and "mentally unstable" in Google? She never gives me a concrete answer. Just a lot of giggling; it is because she knows all too well my self-proclaimed axiom, that if there is an oddball about I will be pestered by him.

Barron von Hammer

I have recently had interesting conversations with my peers who have considered going back to college after a long hiatus (we are in our forties), either to finish what they started or to advance to graduate school. It was at this point that I remembered my first experience in going back to finish my degree (and later to grad school).

I would like to point out that idiocy is a preserved trait, one that I carry within my genetic code with unwavering steadfastness. Walk with me dear friend and experience life as one who treads into areas reserved heretofore for the criminally insane....

I had enrolled into college after a twenty year absence, this after dropping out at the tender age of twenty to pursue a life of adventure and mayhem. So at the wizened age of forty I decided to finish up what I started and get my degree. I signed up for several classes and started in the spring of 2005. One of my classes (a prerequisite) was an Oral Communications course entitled Speech. I had already missed one or two sessions due to late registration and was eager to get back into the swing of things. For many people, taking a course in which one must stand in front of class and give lectures is a daunting task, fortunately I am not concerned with this public display as I address twenty thousand people every Monday night.

So off I went, leaving early so I could get to class before it began. I arrived on campus and dutifully approached the room that my class was to be held in. As I walked in I was somewhat surprised that the class as a whole had already assembled, in fact there was only one chair left. I immediately made my way to my seat as the entire class stared at me in what I considered at the time to be a strangely incredulous and collective gaze. Immediately upon sitting down, I noticed the students, one at a time, rising up and walking to the podium to give a five minute speech on various odd topics and noticed with no small appreciable horror that I was next in line, my chair being situated in the sequential order to necessitate my turn at the podium. Obviously they were already in the stage of preparing and giving speeches, testament to the several sessions that I had already missed. Immediately my mind rushed itself into emergency mode and I began to mentally prepare a speech in my head in the few seconds that remained for spontaneous creativity to manifest itself. No problem I thought, I can wing this, the trick being to just effortlessly glide through a eloquent narrative out of my past, a little humor here, a little humor there, and presto, I have redeemed my truancy through trickery (that and a resultant conversation with the professor afterward).

I strode up to the podium with great aplomb and delivered a robust, and what I thought at the time, articulate soliloquy on a series of dramatic events in my life. Needless to say, I was minutely aware that my choice of topic was radically different from those given at hand, but nonetheless the muse was upon me. I noticed during my boisterous speech that I once again received the same incredulous stare, no doubt due to my prodigious oratory skills. I basked in the revelation that my peers were awestruck when faced with talent such as this. Then it dawned on me. I-was-in-the-wrong-class.

I had wandered into another class in session, not noticing the sign posted long ago on the door that my scheduled class had moved down the hall a week before. The incredulous stares were not, as I sadly imagined, testament to my elocution, but rather of disbelief that an individual had wandered into class and immediately addressed the congregation at present with a topic quite unlike that of previous experiences within the confines of the subject matter at hand.

I basked in my stupidity, as the professor, who unbeknownst to me, was quietly confused behind his desk, timidly informing me that I was evidently in the wrong class, though he tactfully admitted to being smitten with my tales of adventure. It is at this point that my ancient genetic strain of idiocy manifested itself and I had an immediate vision of running naked through a grass field, burning huts littering the landscape as I grunted and flung my spear with great force at the newly appeared homo sapiens that had invaded my ancestral homeland.

I thanked them and quickly left the room. Later that night my wife laughed hard enough to risk a brain aneurysm as I sat in the bathtub, letting the water cleanse me of my unrightousness.....

Barron von Hammer

My neighbor moved away the other day. I was saddened by this, but not for reasons one might associate with such a departure.

My neighbor is but a simple man, an ex-marine whose outlook on life is shrouded within the tight confines of Lynryd Sknyrd songs, soft-porn skin flicks and a prodigious quantity of beer consumed by him and his comrades as they stand in waist-high water in his out-door, above ground pool. Humming softly the long forgotten anthems of self described southern troubadours, I saw him glance over the fence separating not only our property lines but differing worldviews as well. After a few seconds of careful introspection he asked what my wife and I were looking at. "A frog." He stared at us warily, in the same way one does when told that your neighbors may or may not have buried someone in the back yard. Normally watching a frog would not illicit such a response, but this is only a step in what I call "bringing my neighbor to the brink of insanity." No, this descent into madness began several months earlier with the following innocuous statement he uttered one lazy evening.

"Hey man, what's that sound you're playing?" My ex-marine neighbor asked me, taking the time to actually engage me in conversation, an activity usually punctuated by his long stares at my wife as she bends over and attends to her garden. He was drawn to the sounds of music coming from within the open window to my living room. I looked up from my chair on my porch, slightly disturbed at the interruption into which was up till that point a very entertaining reading regarding the life of Zinovy Rozhestvensky. It was at this moment that I consciously decided to alleviate this man of the constraints of rational behavior. "Sound distortion generators," I replied casually. You see, I was playing a drone cd (for those not familiar with this genre, it is a series of ethereal repetitive drones that loop for long periods of time).

"Sound distortion generators? What the hell is that?" I looked up as he stared at me, slid my sunglasses down my nose to add gravity to the situation and slowly made my way over to the fence where his upper torso leaned over the top of the fence. In a subdued voice I told him that I was running a series of sound distortion generators in an effort to slow time. His eyes widened upon the completion of my explanation as he stared at me and then at his buddies who were all waist high in his pool, the water only a few degrees cooler than the hot ambient temperature that the month of July provided, testament to the sweat rolling off their distended bellies into the water below. He muffled a quick summary to his comrades concerning my startling revelation and they all crossed over to the side of the pool closest to the fence, threatening to capsize their redneck paradise.

"What do you mean you are trying to bend time?" he asked incredulously. I replied with a quick summary into what could have easily been key components within any pseudo-scientific explanation. "Well we know what speed that sound travels at, right?" They all nodded. "And we know that the greater the distance, the longer it takes for sound to reach us. Therefore, if I can distort sound, and thereby slow the approach of the sound waves in question I then can distort the time continuum that regulates as to how fast the sound reaches me." Well, how can you slow speed down through sound?" one of his comrades in the back asked (evidently one of them had a education surpassing that of the eighth grade). "Well for starters, we know that sound travels faster in water than in air right?" They all nodded again. "Therefore, if I can change the way that sound is introduced I can therefore subjugate the speed that it reaches me in, thereby changing the amount of time it reaches me. And if I can do this, I then change how time is measured within the space of my generators as opposed to how it is measured by those who cannot hear my generators." They all stood quietly within the confines of their beer laden aquatic paradise, each trying to decipher what I said in the summer haze. Pausing for added effect I then replied, "In other words, I am attempting to slow time."

At that very moment my wife's best friend walked into the backyard to talk to my wife. As Anya and Valeria talked in their native tongue, the group opposite me stared at what surely gave credence to my recent exhortations, two individuals chattering in Russian pointing this way and that only increased the mystery of it all; cold war images of shadowy Soviet scientists suddenly adding deadly seriousness to the situation. I walked back to the porch, audibly aware of the muffled conversations that discussed my earth shattering revelation.

The next morning I was again outside on my porch reading. And once again my neighbor and his comrades were enjoying life to the fullest, at least that which 900 gallons of warm water, cheap beer, and the ballads of Foghat could provide. Hearing more weird music emanating from within the confines of my living room, my neighbor again beckoned me over. This time though I waited several seconds to answer, whipping my head around as if he just asked a question. I did this repeatedly until the group of them noticed that there was an inherent two-second delay between question and answer, all the while I acted as if I was oblivious to this fact. They were stunned, "!@#$, he has done it!" Immediately, my highly susceptible neighbor called out in a voice of panic, "Dude, do you know you are a couple of seconds off in your responses to our questions?" Waiting a few seconds I looked up and asked, "I am?" Panic ensued as the group of them rushed the fence, a sea of worried, apprehensive faces peered over the fence at me. "Hey Allan, this is getting weird man, you need to shut those generators off." Again I waited a few seconds and replied, "What are you guys talking about?" "Dude, you are a couple of seconds behind us and don't realize it!" Appearing suddenly "frightened" I backed into the house and sat on my couch out of view, all the while hearing certain words in the conversation next door such as "CIA, physics, danger, $%&@ed-up" etc.

Later on, as the months wore by, I took it as part of my personal responsibility to convince him and his friends of the following: that mirors are really portals into a parallel universe, that UFO's were visiting this world disguised as DC-10s and that if you put instant coffee in a microwave you can travel seven seconds into the future.

Barron von Hammer

My wife and I woke up Saturday morning determined to make the most of a beautiful day. As we were leaving the house she thrust her hands forward.

"Take these," she says handing me some tampons. You know, "just in case."

"Why can't you carry them?"

"Well I don't have any pockets."

Of course we went to the zoo that afternoon and I forgot about them. But not for long though. While attempting to buy a snow cone (after waiting in an insufferably populous line) I pulled my wallet out of my pocket and showered feminine hygienic products everywhere.

Needless to say, I was mortified by the attention I received from this ill-timed venture; my only solace being that I am probably one of a very few who is in possession of the suddenly relevant knowledge of how well one of these products can soak up a particular flavor....say Blue Coconut for example.

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She hates Blue Coconut to begin with.

Barron von Hammer

We were getting up to leave, my comrades and I, from one of the few restaurants that stayed open at a diabolical hour late that Friday evening, when I heard my name being called with great enthusiasm.

Looking up, I noticed several individuals making their way with great excitement to where I was seated. It was then that I recognized two of them, the apparent ringleaders of an approaching bevy of beauties that seemed to be in possession of some illustrious secret, as evident by their exclamations of joy concerning whatever subject matter was at hand. They conversed in hushed tones punctuated with high-pitched squeals, reminiscent to what one hears when you back your car over a fat person.

The two individuals were sisters and have been friends of mine for some time; in fact I briefly dated the older one several years ago, a tortuous and confused relationship whose memory resonates within me a similarity to those testimonials and first hand accounts one usually associates with victims of the Khmer Rouge.

For the purposes of this account, let us refer to these two women as "Rene" and "Erica." Both are attractive and have at times used their physical beauty to their advantage, though not always successfully. Both are (somewhat) in command of their mental faculties; one is simple-minded and the other reasonably intelligent, though it is hard to tell the difference unless someone hands them each a yo-yo.

After exchanging salutations, the girls told me of their acquisition of yet another in a long series of tattoos, a topic rivaling "moss formations" for my attention span. This time though, instead of the usual adornment of pop cultural icons or some other clichéd visual image, they had received a very different tattoo, one that had placed them (at least in their thinking) on a higher intellectual plain.

Normally, they know that the simple acquisition of a tattoo would not interest me in the slightest, but there was a tenuous link between the images (that all of them had collectively and permanently put on their wrists) and me, or so they thought. They had decided to get a tattoo of the symbol that represents the concept of infinity. For those unfamiliar, it looks like a horizontal number eight.

However, on this particular night the muse was upon them and they decided to stretch the boundaries of science by completing this odd imprint with what appeared to them as an earth shattering revelation; thus the captured images via cell phone below.

They proudly informed me that their newly adorned tattoo was defined as "infinity times infinity." There was silence as I contemplated what was surely one of the unmistakable signs of the decline of Western civilization. They told me that I could (somehow) identify with this tattoo in that I had an ambient electronic music show that featured ethereal and surreal music; therefore it only reasons that I would find this tattoo attractive. I did, in fact, find the tattoo, represented on four separate wrists thrust in my direction with sleeves rolled up, mesmerizing; but not quite for the reasons desired by my inked comrades.

As my astonishment receded, I quietly and with as much self control one could muster under the circumstances, asked exactly what this meant. It was then explained to me in the following manner.

"Well, you know how infinity is supposed to stretch forever?'

I replied that I was indeed aware of the definition of infinity.

"Well now it is twice as long!"

Eyes glistening, they were smug in their revelation. Until of course I broke the spell.

"Girls, how can something that is supposed to last forever be twice as long?"

There was silence as cogs and wheels turned around me and then stopped. Their eyes suddenly became vacant, a vacuous abyss that slowly sucked in their fragile world. Erika slowly turned her wrist 180 degrees so it no longer faced me. Rene began blinking furiously and continued her long held penchant of reciting the names of planets when confused by a cerebral dilemma. Stares were exchanged but alas, the muse had left (or rather simply died). One of the four drew her wristwatch discreetly over the aforementioned image, replacing the infinity symbol with the simple device that kept pace with the temporal world as she knew it.

Somewhere in the distance the clinking of dishes, pots and pans, enveloped within the ambient noise of the eatery's kitchen interceded on their behalf, and a waitress asked them if they would like to be seated.

I love those two girls as if they were my very own (highly) retarded sisters.

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Barron von Hammer

I have the unfortunate predicament of having to take a shower after my wife Anya has vacated the bathroom. You see, she leaves an hour before I do so when I enter the bathroom to do my morning constitution I am entering HER bathroom, the way she likes it. I am entirely too groggy to even represent a sentient being as I stumble into the shower, completely forgetting (once again) that she recently procured a high velocity shower head that at one time during its product development stage must have been considered for stripping paint or for dispersing a riotous assembly. There are several settings on this shower and in my incapacitated state I never check the setting. Now mind you, there are several settings on this shower head that I like such as "summer rain", "mist", etc and then there is her favorite setting "massage" which is nothing of the sort. Now when I think of massage, I conjure up images of relaxation, the soft, enquiring hands of a 21-year-old Scandinavian woman, and possibly an exchange of cash. Unfortunately the truth of the matter is that the setting could be more accurately described as "beaten by thugs." Adding to the misery is her penchant for numbingly cold showers as if obeying some ancient protocol of her ancestral past in which the weak and infirmed were weeded out through tests of extreme endurance. Today, I stumbled sleepy-eyed into the shower, wrenched it on, and was immediately hit by a roar of icy water travelling at one thousand miles an hour, immediately transforming my face into a pose primarily reminiscent of test chimpanzees in the Mercury space program when encountering severe G-forces upon re-entry.

Five seconds later (after my eyes have dilated, my lips curled and my testicles have disappeared) I am able to adjust the settings to a reasonable level that will not induce pneumonia. Now it is time to lather what little epidermis has not been pulled away. I absent-mindedly grab the soap and began spreading a film of what can only be described as having the iridescent sheen of a sunlit pond. At this point I realize I have grabbed one of her herbal soaps whose claims to promote a "calm tranquility" is only matched by its ridiculously exorbitant price, as if some indigenous tribe deep within the Amazon brought forth a herbal extract made from the rarest of tropical plants. She has bought a dozen of these soaps from small upscale stores, each bar representing a desired emotion or some facet of relaxation. Unfortunately though, my only experiences with these soaps present one of bewildered terror as I question why my skin has suddenly turned taupe. It seems I always end up getting the soap that markets itself as "mind altering peyote."

I try to find my essentials (such as a razor) among a staggering array of lotions, gels and lubricants, each with some specified purpose; for the life of me I have not the foggiest notion, outside of a porn setting, what these are used for. In addition there are enough fragrances and perfumes to gas a small battalion into paralysis.

Forty-five minutes later, as I enter my place of occupation I get a phone call from her.

"I hope you did not mess up the bathroom again."