Now here's a great idea - everybody jumps

These guys figure if they can get 600,000,000 people to all jump at exactly the same time (really) they can nudge the Earth into a new orbit, thereby stopping global warming, extending daylight hours, and creating a more homogeneous climate. Plus (they don't mention this but I'm pretty sure it's true) the guy at the grocery store will stop pasting little stickers on all the veggies. Life will become, well, perfect. And all because 600,000,000 people have accurate clocks. And are all on the same side of the Earth. I guess that would have to be true too, otherwise the Earth would just get squished and wind up looking sort of like a cosmic pancake.

They're still 200,000,000 people short. But this thing isn't scheduled to happen until July 20 so there's plenty of time for you to sign up. Also you might want to think about gaining some weight.

Oh, and another thing. If the daylight hours get extended there probably won't be as many vampires around either, so that would be another good thing.

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A very charitable year so far

As noted in the January 16 New Yorker (dead tree version, so no link), in just the first two weeks of January some 65 members of the 109th Congress dumped $417,000 into charitable donations, with Dubya himself adding six grand to the sum. Ahh, Abramoff.
"Were they to keep up the pace for the remaining fifty-one weeks of 2006, their collective cheritable giving would add up to about twenty-one million dollars - enough to make up for more than four years' worth of the cuts their latest budget made to the Mine Safety and Health Administration," the magazine adds.
How long has it been since we had such a charitable bunch of public servants in Washington?

Come to think of it, how long has it been since we ha public servants?

Speaking of "money" - and "long" - and just so there's a link in this post, my calculator claims that if you were to buy one Massachusetts Mega Millions lottery ticket every day, always with the same number, the odds are you should win a jackpot in about 370,000 years. By then you would have paid upwards of $135 million for the tickets, so that's where the mega part comes in. Still, if you get plenty of exercise and eat your brocolli, who knows?

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This is the kind of thing that got those witches in trouble

What I'm about to do here, I mean, which is put a vile hex on the months of February and March. I'm doing this by mentioning how warm the weather is in January - right now, that would be - and also by saying I, myself, think it's Spring.

"Think positive" is my motto, which puts me at odds with your basic native New Englander who devoutly expects to be punished for his sins. Any sins at all - which would include enjoying a 50-degree day in January, of which we have had several this week - and even worse than that, a January in which the ice, as you can see, is melting off. I, on the other hand, prefer to think it's going to be like this right on through. (Accuweather's opinion on this is that it will be sub-freezing tomorrow and Monday but then get back into the 40s later next week, during the days at least, and stay pretty much there for the rest of the month. With a little rain, snow, ice and general crud thrown in just to make it seem like home.)

There. That should about do it. February will be a bitch.

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Laugh and the world laughs with you - or at least part of it, I'm not saying which

With help from the Pentagon's chief laughter instructor, families of National Guard members are learning to walk like a penguin, laugh like a lion and blurt "ha, ha, hee, hee and ho, ho."
Laughter instructor!

This is not a drill. Retired Army Colonel James ("Scotty") Scott (giggling a little bit already, aren't you) is certified as a laughter training specialist. No, wait...by somebody from Ohio.

"We believe our program prevents hardening of the attitudes," says Scott.
"I laugh every chance I get," says the instructor, retired Army colonel James "Scotty" Scott. "That's why I'm blessed to be at the Pentagon, where we definitely need a lot of laughter in our lives."

Join the Army and laugh your ass off.

Really, seriously here, folks, military families have a lot of stress to deal with these days and if laughing helps, good on them. I wish them great guffaws. Even more, I wish they didn't have to laugh quite so much.

And I wish the Pentagon would quit clowning around.

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Whoa! Here's what spending too many days in sub-zero weather can do.

A guy named Jonathon "The Impaler" Sharkey is running for Governor of Minnesota, claiming to be even more evil than the criminals and terrorists and if one of them has a beef with the U.S. of A. they can damn well take it up with him. Also claiming, by the way, to be a "Satanic Dark
Priest, Sanguinarian Vampyre and a Hecate Witch."

(I'm pointing all this out, Mr. Impaler, in the friendliest of ways.)

He is also (and yes, this may come as a surprise) a professional wrestler, albeit a somewhat former one, and Go-Kart racer.


You have to admit this is more fun than watching the Alito hearings.

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The ruin of Shell Beach

Here's a notable photoset from Flickr, posted this month. The 97 photos are viewable as a slideshow.
I walked the length of the road from the Yscloskey/Hopedale highway to Lake Borgne to document the destruction of this small St. Bernard Parish fishing community by the post-Katrina flooding due to shoddy levee construction and the continued use of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MR-GO) years after it should have been closed.
(Thanks to e for the link.)

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An elemental fact of life found under the pig

My high school geometry teacher, a Mrs. Woodward, kept a paperweight shaped like a pig on her desk.

Now this being in the days before Ethernet, the school administration employed squads of Freshmen to schlepp notes and lists and other assorted documents from the office to the teachers in the classrooms, and Mrs. Woodward, being one of those teachers who liked to roam around the room when she lectured, seemed always to be on the opposite side of the room when one of those hapless runners arrived at the door, paperwork in hand. And she, not being one who appreciated being interrupted whilst deep in contemplation of a triangle, would shout across the room:
Under the pig!
The look of helpless befuddlement on the Freshman's face and the confusion that ensued was, invariably, priceless. These where the high points of my days. (I am, as you may have noticed, easily amused.)

So when, eventually, I found myself with a desk of my own the first thing I put on it was a pig. Well, not literally a pig - it was an old glass insulator from a telephone pole in fact - but I thought of it as my pig and whenever I wanted to be sure I didn't forget something I would write it on a scrap of paper and put it under the pig.

Then came the day when I noticed the stack of notes under the pig had grown surprisingly large and it occurred to me that maybe I ought to review my reminders, just to be sure nothing vital was forgotten. It turned out, of course, that most all of the notes had expired - whatever urgent tasks they referred to had long since been done and I could just throw them away. Or they hadn't got done, but now it was too late. Only a few still had any meaning, but since I had made such good progress at reducing the stack by then, I simply put them back under the pig and got on with things.

I've been doing it ever since, although now I do it on a computer, of course. I have to-do lists and lists of to-do lists and databases of lists of to-do lists, reminders everywhere. The nice thing about doing it that way, on a computer, is that it's much easier to throw them away.

The fact is that when it's absolutely essential something be done it somehow gets done, or else it doesn't, and life goes on.

Which reminds me, I need a pig icon.

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Taking a break for a little winter fun

I never learned how to ice skate, myself. I was somewhere around eight or nine before I saw my first pair of skates and by that time the boys in Duluth (my family had just moved there to live) were playing organized hockey. So I was relegated to skating with the girls and, not realizing what a good deal that was (I'm a slow learner too) lost interest and gave up.

But this guy does look like he's having a lively time.

(Tuxedo Park, New York, circa 1900, from the Library of Congress George Grantham Bain Collection.)

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Darkness vanquished, this time forever

Just a note from our Breaking News Desk here - I got four new light bulbs, not just two, which puts me 100 percent over my New Year light bulb resolution. (I'm wondering if such a brilliant performance - heh - entitles me to skip one of the other ones. Remind me to look that up.) And the best thing is they're those new-fashioned squiggly fluorescent ones and they're supposed to last a very, very long time. OK, maybe "forever" was a little over the top there, but definitely long.

Actually I only needed three, and I was thinking the fourth would be a spare. But now I'm beginning to wonder if I should send the fourth one to the White House because I'm beginning to think they need it more than I.

The Dubya went to some kind of town meeting thing in Kentucky yesterday and did a whole lot of flickering, as noted here on First Draft.

My personal favorite showed up in one of the comments so I went to the White House web site (once again risking all for the Empire) and got the full quote:
It also makes sense to take pressure off the border by giving people a legal means on a temporary basis to come here, so they don't have to sneak across. Now, some of you all may be old enough to remember the days of Prohibition. I'm not. (Laughter.) But remember, we illegalized whisky, and guess what? People found all kinds of ways to make it, and to run it. NASCAR got started -- positive thing that came out of all that. (Laughter.)
I'm not sure what to make of all the laughter but it - well, maybe this is just my imagination but it sounds a little nervous to me. On the other hand, maybe people were just happy whisky is no longer illegalized.

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Brits inaugurate SpyTV - but what will Disney say?

Our YA Media Empire Entertainment Editor ("only a day or two out to lunch") reports on this innovation by our fun-loving pals, the Brits.
Residents of a trendy London neighbourhood are to become the first in Britain to receive "Asbo TV" -- television beamed live to their homes from CCTV cameras on the surrounding streets.
("Asbo," apparently, is British for "spy" - but we speak English here.) Those CCTV things they're talking about, those are the spy cameras scattered around the neighborhood. By all accounts they do love spy cameras there - they're all over the place, thousands of them - and now they're not just for the bobbies any more. Those lucky Brits can watch them right in their very own bedrooms.

OK I'm just assuming bedrooms - but wouldn't the best shows be after dark? Like, hey honey, Leno is boring tonight (do they have Leno there?), let's see what Barney and Madge are up to! And another neat thing, everybody gets a list of their neighbors' "anti-social behaviors" (wink, wink), sort of like a SpyTV Guide.

Technology is cool, isn't it? I mean, I used to live in a, well, enthusiastic neighborhood on the Lower East Side of Manhattan (look! there's a picture from Google Earth!) and in the summer when the windows were open and the shades pulled up could watch half a dozen really great shows in the building across the street every night. It was great! But this TV thing would be even better, wouldn't it?

Anyway, as I think I was saying not too long ago on this blog or somewhere else (I'm trying to remember if I forgot - do you have days like that?) we need to remember how to entertain ourselves, what with every commercial form being copy-protected and bugged, and this sounds like just the ticket to me. Want to entertain your neighbors with a little anti-social behavior of your own? Just run right out in the street. I don't know if they have audio yet but you could always be a mime. (Look! There's Charlie, miming a mugging! Wow, he's good!)

Hey, tune in. As somebody notes in the comments (to the story linked above) surveillance is a fact now, no escaping that, it's just a question of who gets to watch. I want to watch. Don't you?

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Just so you know - about the Hillary Clinton poll in the sidebar

I don't know if it will still be there when you read this but at the moment the big tall button in the sidebar promotes a "Hillary Clinton" political poll. If you should decide to complete this poll and click on the button you'll wind up on a page that explains, among other things, you can be registered to win an iPod mini if you complete the poll.

Now this would normally be enough to put some people off (including me) because if you want to be entered in the iPod drawing you will obviously have to give up at least your mailing address. So - just so you know - I completed the poll to see where and how the address question comes up (thereby selflessly sacrificing myself for your well-being, dear reader) and also to see what kind of questions they ask.

You do not have to register to win the iPod in order to complete the poll.

The request for an address and phone number (so they can send you the iPod, of course) comes on the last page, after all the other questions have been answered. If you simply leave that page blank and "Continue" the poll appears, at least, to finish successfully and without complaint. (Of course I have no idea if the answers are actually recorded, but there is no indication they're not.)

So then, if you do want to complete the poll, go ahead. And if you do want to register for the iPod, be my guest. But registering is not required in order to answer the questions or to complete the poll process.

You can trust the Empire. The Empire has only your best interests at heart. The Empire is kind and beneficent and, to date, has not acquired a police force.

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Those Google guys just might amount to something after all

OK. I know about the search thing. And the Gmail thing. And the stuff like Picasa and whatever, and Blogger of course. But I hadn't seen Google Earth before today - the Mac version just arrived on the scene. It is, indeed, excellently cool. (It will also guarantee you waste whatever time you may have left - so now you know, and don't complain to me.)

But if you haven't seen it yet and do have some time left, you can get yourself a copy here.

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Before you put your phone number on the "Do Not Call" list you might want to give this a try

Looks like fun! (And thanks to Boing Boing.)

It's an anti-telemarketing counter-script (downloadable pdf) you can follow to ask them the same kind of questions they ask you.

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Just when I thought it was safe to stop laughing

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger loves to talk about roaring down the Pacific Coast Highway on his Harley-Davidson, the wind in his hair. But he acknowledged Tuesday one small problem in that free-as-a-bird scenario: He "never thought about" getting a license to pilot his hog, which police say he's been driving illegally -- apparently for years.
The Gov. recently recently signed a bill to toughen driving laws for teenagers.

Fortunately (whew), according to the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles police, Shwartzenegger committed "just an infraction" and it was "up to the responding officer's discretion," blah blah blah. So it seems the Gov. walks.

Or, more likely, just rides away.

By the way, how long do you think it will be before kids are trading political mug shot cards?

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Comedians stage coup at Associated Press

How else can you explain this?

In a story datelined this morning Jesse J. Holland of the AP tells us how pleased Republicans are at Samuel Alito's performance in his confirmation hearing so far.
"I certainly see nothing at this point that would cause me not to vote to confirm," said Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee that questioned Alito during a daylong hearing Tuesday. Added Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, another committee member, "Barring some unexpected development, I expect to support the nominee."
(Holland misses what Lindsey Graham told Alito at the beginning of the hearing yesterday: "It's possible you could talk me out of voting for you, but I doubt it. So I won't even try to challenge you along those lines.")

And then he delivers this punchline.
Republicans complained that Democrats have already made up their minds about Alito.
Fox "News" could start an anti-Comedy Channel channel with material like that.

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A girl named Sue and WWII

I had a memorable crush on the girl named Sue (and yeah, I do remember her last name but I'm not telling). We were classmates in the third grade. I thought she looked like Wonder Woman. Which goes to show I didn't have much head for details even then.

WWII, on the other hand, looked more like everybody's dad or big brother. Like the guys in uniforms saluting each other on the streets downtown. Like WAACS and WAVES (who also looked a lot like Wonder Woman).

I was a little young to be in the Army but that doesn't mean I wasn't in the war. We were all in the war. We picked up newspapers in Red Flyer wagons, saved the tinfoil from gum wrappers, and took the bacon fat back to the butcher. (Except for some bacon fat my Mom used to help the war effort by making soap. It was brownish, evil smelling stuff and in Lincoln, Nebraska - to us - it was a whole lot more dangerous than the Germans.) Food and gasoline and tires were rationed and bubble gum was in short supply (the rumor was they needed it to make more tires). And even now I can page through old Life magazines from the early 40s and see pictures I remember seeing then.

And hung in the windows were little banners with blue and gold stars.

We won.

But we haven't done too well with wars since then. There's the War on Poverty that's been going on for how long now? Thirty years or so? And we don't seem to have won that one yet. And a War on Drugs - I don't know if we're winning that one or not but if we're winning we sure are winning slow. And this War on Terror (or Terrorism, or Just General Badness) which is only just now getting started and could be going on for quite some time. (And also there's been a "police action," a "conflict," various "interventions" and "incursions," and something about rescuing some college students on an island somewhere. None of them seem to have accomplished very much except getting a lot of people killed.)

My thinking is, on the whole, we'd be better off if we hadn't had so many wars.

(Edited 1.11. Mercifully)

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More fun with wacky Christians, and I more or less repent

There was a story in the news late last week about some Christian ministers sneaking into the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing room in advance of the Alito affair now underway and anointing the Senators' chairs with oil. Presumably, we thought at the time, it was an attempt to assert some sort of Godly influence on the proceedings (they claimed the seats were "liberally" anointed but we're not too sure if we believe that part), or possibly the clerics involved have investments in a local dry cleaning establishment, or maybe it was just another screwed up security drill.

But now our Y.A.M.E. Religion Editor, who has been reading a publication called Cannabis Canada, informs us thusly:
The ancient recipe for this anointing oil, recorded in the Old Testament book of Exodus (30: 22-23) included over nine pounds of flowering cannabis tops, Hebrew "kaneh-bosm," extracted into a hind (about 6.5 litres) of olive oil, along with a variety of other herbs and spices. The ancient chosen ones were literally drenched in this potent cannabis holy oil.
So now we're wondering just how much of this anointing stuff has been going on in the Senate, and what else that might explain.

And yes, it does seem this blog has become a little bit political of late, and I repent. More or less. Politics is no longer relevant, and we must move on. Still, it's not always easy to determine where politics end and just plain wacky fun begins, is it?

Like, for example, Dubya. And, the other day, Dubya insisting he couldn't remember ever meeting Jack Abramoff. Now it turns out:
In President Bush's first 10 months, GOP fundraiser Jack Abramoff and his lobbying team logged nearly 200 contacts with the new administration as they pressed for friendly hires at federal agencies and sought to keep the Northern Mariana Islands exempt from the minimum wage and other laws, records show.
Of course, maybe Dubya himself was in Texas clearing brush at the time. It doesn't mean Dubya himself personally met the guy.

Also Abramoff was on his 2000-2001 Department of Interior transition team.

Oh. Well we didn't believe it anyway. Did you?

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Go Thin Mints!

Breakdown of best-selling Girl Scout cookie sales:

25% Thin Mints

19% Caramel DeLites

13% Peanut Butter Patties (Tagalongs)

11% Peanut Butter Sandwiches (Do-si-dos)

9% Shortbread
With 200 million boxes sold annually, Girl Scout cookies are the third-largest selling brand in the US. To find out what the first and second are, check UNDERNEWS.

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And if me were a Yale graduate me'd be asking for a refund about now

Not to mention Harvard.

Laura and I's [sic] spirits are uplifted any time we go to a school that's working
--George Dubya ("Dubya") Bush, who graduated from Yale in 1968 and Harvard in 1975. (In a speech to a school board. To celebrate the 4th anniversary of "No Child Left Behind.")

That link, by the way, is to the White (they don't seem to have gone for the Nutmeg idea) House web site, so of course you'll want to toss you cookies once you've read it. Unless, that is, you have a magic anti-evil spy cookie cookie which, if you want one, you can get for yourself right here.

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I know a lot of people named "anonymous" (and one named "peoriacutiepie")

So what's with this? From CNET News:

A new federal law states that when you annoy someone on the Internet, you must disclose your identity. Here's the relevant language.

"Whoever...utilizes any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or other types of communications that are transmitted, in whole or in part, by the Internet... without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person...who receives the communications...shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both."
It's part of the somewhat expansively (and ambiguously)-named "Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act," nestled in a section called "Preventing Cyberstalking."

Now we're not in favor of cyberstalking here in Yet Another Media Empire, or any other kind of cyberbadness either. We're all for cybergoodness, we are. But really, is this the Internet or is it not? And really, as Emperor (but you, dear reader, may call me Emp), what am I to do - demand ID? Gimme a break.

So don't be annoying, that's the rule. (And anyway I have a magic button that can delete you if you are - they have their empire, I have mine.)

Unless, of course, you have a name. Like "anonymous." Then you can be as annoying as you really are.

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“The President does not know him, nor does the President recall ever meeting him.”

Is it just me or is the government being run by a bunch of guys who've never seen each other? Are you getting that impression too? I mean, if you watch CSPAN, there's always some guy giving a speech in an empty room - maybe the whole thing works like that. Remember in that debate when Dick ("Dick") Cheney said he'd never met John Edwards? And then there was that Enron guy, Kenny ("Kenny") Lay, and now Abramoff, and we're not too sure about Tom ("Whatever His Name Is") Delay either.


The White House - come to think of it maybe that's their problem right there...if they painted it a different color people might not notice it so much...I mean, you wouldn't get excited about goings-on in the Nutmeg House, would you? - the White House, as I was saying, according to this piece in Raw Story, is conducting an all-out search for pictures of Abramoff just so they can see what he looks like.

And speaking of pictures, by the way, if you use cel service from T-Mobile, Cingular, or AT&T you can get some really cool art for your phone from a new outfit called Start Mobile - drop by and take a look.

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Oh no! Not the Grotto of Redemption! Say it isn't so!

Whew, that was close. For a minute there I was worried. But, happily, the Grotto of Redemption in West Bend, Iowa, has been left on the state's official list of critical assets to be protected from terrorists at any cost - along with 1,129 other critica sites including the Field of Dreams movie site, the Boone Railroad Museum, the Soto National Wildlife refuge, the Snappy Popcorn Co., and a Krispy Kreme drive-through. (What have I been telling you about Iowa?)

"Our survivability depends on how well we can protect our critical infrastructure," says David Miller, the state's homeland-security chief, as quoted in this DeMoines Register article.

Alas, Iowa's list of critical places is still too long, says Ron Bee of the quaintly-named University of California-San Diego's Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation. "If you have more than 50, 100 max, you're kidding yourself," he says.

Leaving aside the question "what's a guy in California doing telling Iowa what to do," it should be pointed out Iowa is making progress, having pared its list down from the original 11,600 sites Iowa listed in its initial stage of fright (or, a cynic might say, it's initial stage of grabbing for Federal funds - but certainly I would never say a thing like that).

A good song, though, is "Duke of Dubuque." I hope that's on the list.

(There is, apparently, also a real place called Dubuque. I've never been there but I saw it once from across the river in Galena, IL. The rest of Iowa I'm not so sure about.)

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At long last a puzzle is solved

Once in a previous century, in New York, I worked in the PR department of a big nationwide corporation, and one of my jobs, briefly, was to write answers to unsolicited letters that arrived addressed to the president of the company. Most of those letters were complaints of some kind but once in a while, just often enough to keep me awake most days, something interesting would turn up.

The most memorable of these was a letter from somebody in one of the Dakotas (they're pretty much the same) that started "I am the Federal government" and went on to say "If you ever need anything, let me know." I figured the guy was some kind of wacko nutjob - period - but my boss figured, maybe a nutjob retiree just trying to let us know where he was so I wrote him a letter back and said thanks, we'd keep his address handy.

Now I find out I was right all along. And I'm gloating.

(I stole the picture from Security Hooligans, right here.)

And take this lesson to heart - if you want to write to a corporation and want to be sure somebody reads your letter, address your letter to the president. Or CEO. (Like the Dakotas, they're pretty much the same.) She (heh heh, little joke there) may never see it but at least some poor mope in the PR department will. Make it a really juicy letter. Brighten up her day.

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Naked in the alley, I want my pants

That's where my house key is. And a tiny LED flashlight, in case it's dark in the alley (which I devoutly hope it is). In my pants. How obvious is that? And what's with this guy, Amal Graafstra, anyway, obsessing about being naked in an alley without his house key? The guy should get himself some pants, is what I say.

But no. Graafstra, delicately described as an "entrepreneur based in Vancouver, Canada" (ah, maybe that explains it), belongs to a (very) small coven of leading-edge technobimbos implanting themselves with those electronical RFID computer chip things.
(Musical Interlude)

I got a rose between my toes
From running barefoot through the hothouse
To you, pretty baby,
I got your house key in my nose
And your password underneath my fingertips...
Oh well. This guy's house key and password - and other mysterious things, one supposes - are on the RFID chip under his skin. This, presumably, saves him time. Or at least saves him buying pants.

On the whole though, I'm not sure it's such a great idea. In the first place, what if he moves? Or buys a new car or a new computer? And in the second, how does he know the little chip in my hand isn't some kind of nifty gadget that will suck up all his passwords and keys the first time we shake? And in the third, some other stuff. (I cringe to think of all the implants I would have had, with all the houses, cars, and computers I've come into possession of over the years.)

Certain security freaks I know, by the way, advise me a password is only good for the length of time it take somebody else to figure out what it is. That could be a very short time if your password is a short, simple one like "me" (oh please, please tell me it's not) or a very, very long time if it's a long and well-formed one, always assuming computers get no faster and crackers get no smarter than they are. Which leads conventional wisdom - being conventional if nothing else - to suggest one should change one's password from time to time, just on principle. Or passwords (yeah, what if the guy has two computers, one at home and one at work, huh?), but don't get me started on that.

So my advice is, if you're going out in the alley put on some pants.

And if you know the password for my old answering machine please let me know, because the new one sucks.

PS. My uncle, the New York one, was famous for arriving at the theater one night and saying to his wife, "Gee, I wish I'd brought the piano."

"Why," my aunt asked.

"Because I left the tickets on it," he said.

So let me amend my advice. Put on your pants, and take the piano just in case.

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