Saturday, September 09, 2006

Time to Accelerate

Time to Accelerate

Live Reports From the Midlife Adventure

Washington Post Health Section, Tuesday, August 22, 2006; Page HE02

Heat and haze, the bike path nearly deserted, and I'm cranking west. I'm 53; both I and my ancient Benotto road bike are somewhat rusty and crusty but in good mechanical condition.

Why do I do this? Year after year, recording the miles, repairing the flats, pampering the old knees, sweating or freezing as the season dictates, out on the W&OD trail. I could be on a couch watching the random flow of Americana on the tube, savoring a good beer and eating whatever comes to hand. I'm reasonably happy, solvent and of contemplative temperament -- so why do I continue to ride? Is it just a bad habit?

As I muse thusly, a sleek and powerful young man passes me; his bike is shiny and high-tech, and his legs are shaved. I note that he is not traveling at warp 10, so I bring my own speed up and draft on him for a mile or so, without breathing down his neck. At a long straightaway, I fire the reserve dilithium crystals and pass him crisply, and I keep cranking until I'm out of sight.

Boomer motto: Too young to die, but not too old to rock and roll.

Who's Afraid of the Great Satan?


Notes - Brainstorming session - AQ4735290011.aqx.whatever. May 8, 2010

Red Herring Project Development Group

A: Gentlemen, we've made no appreciable headway in the pinhead-bomb plan. In spite of an impressive collection of speculative technical and chemical theory and a nicely done video of an apparent explosion seeming to proceed from a pinhead placed on a clean table, test subjects of an appropriate educational level reject the concept for the fantasy that it is.

B: Group leader A: is it still really necessary to be convincing to college graduates in technical and scientific fields? The Great Satan's leadership has increasingly rejected scientific consensus in several important areas for political reasons. In addition, that leadership is perfectly willing to pander to various Luddite factions and to use fear as a major tool of manipulation, exactly as we do. A stupid and fearful American public benefits both their leaders and us, their enemies. All we have to do is harness and channel the fear more skillfully than they.

A: Interesting. So you believe that even hoax threats which are scientifically ridiculous could be effective in sanding the gears of the American machine at this stage?

B: I'm confident we're not that far away.

A: Excellent. Introduce two or three plots of this nature to be uncovered by the CIA; make sure our pawns are too stupid to know the difference, but not so stupid as to be utter and obvious dunces. Then track the distance the credulity travels up the food chain. If it shows up anywhere near the Oval Office I'll throw a pizza party, with root beer and belly dancers.

C: The group leader is understandably still steamed about that Shoe Bomber debacle. Well, chief, D and I have worked up a dandy proposal for you.

A: Okay, kids, let's hear it.

C: Suppository bombs of plastique, with a no-metal ignition system - maybe you just get up to go to the bathroom and pretend to trip, fall hard on the floor, and static from the rug sets it off.

A: Hmm, yes, I see. Ridiculous, but still - can we actually get martyrs to volunteer for that? It's kind of nasty, even for us.

D: Oh yeah, are you kidding? I've got some zombies that would fight for the honor. But you see what that would force the Feds to do - it would be cavity searches for all passengers!

A: Brilliant! Assemble a team of idiots, er, martyrs! Up the Arse of the Great Satan!

All: Up the Arse of the Great Satan! [conferees clink coffee cups]

[we take you now to a typical airport security-check line, March 2020, C.E.]

Passenger A: I hate air travel these days. I'm nostalgic for the good old days, when all you had to do was disrobe and bend over, and a few other procedural exams. Sure, it took three hours, but at least you could look out the windows during the flight.

Passenger B: You've got to admit that the new system is more convenient, though, and probably safer. Once you're thrust into the carbonite freezing chamber, instantaneously cooled to ten degrees below absolute zero, and zipped into that big ziplock bag with the two-color security zipper, you've got nothing to worry about, and you wake up at your destination, apparently only a moment later, not even rested.

Passenger C: I wonder whether you young people even know that in the actual good old days, airlines served free hot meals, drinks and snacks. The food was a standing joke, but it really wasn't that bad. Also, you could joke with the stewardess, and even visit the cockpit, long ago. I still have a Pan Am winged lapel-pin given to me by a pilot when I was seven.

Passenger A: I've heard a weird rumor about the hypercooling thing. I heard that when you're on the slab for the flight, your brain resembles a flash chip, and can be both read and written to. Naturally this would make total hash out of what's left of our civil rights, so it's probably all hogwash. But I'm no scientist, so, who knows? Maybe they can change your political affiliation from Islamican to Plutocratic with a few mouse clicks as you fly.

Passenger C: I think that we really do have to fear fear itself. Our fear is now a mechanically institutionalized cancer in American society; the government responds without a trace of reflection to any idiotic rumor that -

[Announcement comes over airport public address system]

Attention all passengers! All flights have been canceled indefinitely due to potential security threats. Please dress and gather your belongings for airport exit security checks. Please have all six of your identity cards ready for examination. Please be compliant when asked to provide a DNA sample...

Passenger B: Oh, for the love of -

... Passengers A, B and C will report to the security office immediately for routine questioning. Have a good day, and happy flying!