Category Archives: Politics

Remember When We All Had Chips Surgically Implanted?

When my employer approached me about surgically implanting a microchip in my hand so that I could get into the office without having to take out my key fob, I was little reluctant.  But then I read that other people had done it, so I knew it must be safe.

Having a computer chip sitting inside the fleshy web between my thumb and forefinger was a bit strange at first.  But I quickly got used to it, and being able to get into the office with just a wave of the hand was both convenient and futuristic, and I was thankful to live in a time when such technology existed.

The following year, my employer offered a new chip that could not only unlock the doors, but would also allow you to purchase food from the company cafeteria. We normally used a special employee card for that, and although the card was very light, there were a few times that I left it in my pants from the day before, and had to beg for food from co-workers.  I immediately wanted the new chip, and I could not rest or enjoy my lunch until this chip was part of my anatomy.

So I signed up to have my old chip surgically replaced with the new chip.  But the fleshy web between my thumb and forefinger had been stretched during the first surgery, and so the doctors were afraid that yet another surgery to the same spot would cause the fleshy web to lose all elasticity, leaving me with my thumb permanently left hanging off to the side of my hand, and people would perpetually think I was giving their ideas the thumbs down.

So they had to implant the new chip in my other hand.  I was a little upset having now two chips in my body, especially after they told me that the old chip would have to be deactivated per company policy.  But this discomfort was more than offset by the convenience of being able to unlock the doors and buy lunch or a snack with just the wave of my hand.

The following year they released a chip that included a tiny receiver/transmitter so that it could also be a cell phone. I hesitated not one nanosecond before putting my name on the list that had been posted in the cafeteria.

Being able to make a phone call by talking into your hand – can you imagine?  I was so excited, that I did not foresee that there would be any problems.  So I was quite shocked when the head of HR told me that I could not have the upgrade done because both hands had already been operated on.

I begged them to reconsider. Was there another part of my body into which they could install this latest of chips?

Having a chip surgically installed in my upper leg was not as bad as I’d feared.  The surgery was simple, the scar tiny, and making calls by talking into my leg was better than I’d imagined. I could just hunch over like I had dropped a piece of food on my lap and was looking to see where it landed, and say “Dial” and then the number.  The volume of the chip was amplified so that I could hear the speaker easily from my leg. And when I received a call, the chip would vibrate, a nice sensation that had the unexpected effect of massaging my leg, and was quite welcome, especially at the end of a long day.

Naturally they had to deactivate the second chip, again per company policy.  So unlocking the office doors, which I had to do now with my upper leg, was a bit more challenging.  But hardly impossible. The real issue was buying food at the cafeteria.

It was disconcerting to my co-workers standing next to me on line when I suddenly kicked my leg straight up in the air so that the cashier could charge my meal to my thigh.  I am not the most coordinated of people.  Sometimes I jerk my leg up quickly and I can’t always avoid trays that are nearby. So people learned to avoid me when they saw me on the line.

I’d be lying if I said that this minor ostracism did not sadden me.  I’ve always thought of my co-workers as friends first, and co-workers second. But when your employer offers you the chance to become a cyborg, friendship stretches only so far.

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Remember Election Night?

I’m watching a flat screen television, and on the flat screen television is another flat screen television that shows an image of all the states.  Some states are blue, some states are red, but all states are peppered with little dots that denote locations of Denny’s.  Next to the flat screen—the one on TV, not the one in my living room—stands a news reporter.

He touches one of the states, and the screen zooms in so that the state fills the screen and now all that state’s counties can be seen, some colored blue, and some colored red.  He touches one of the counties and the screen zooms in yet again so that houses can be seen, some blue and some red.  He touches one of the houses and now the rooms of the house fill the screen, some blue and some red.

He touches one of the rooms, and the room grows large so that now two people in the room can be seen.  One person is blue, the other red.  Then he touches one of the people, and now we can see inside the person’s brain.  Some of the brain cells are blue, and some of them are red.  Most of them are green.

A second news reporter comes over and tries to touch the screen.  The first reporter slaps the hand away.

“Only I can touch the magic screen!” the first reporter says, and the awkward moment  that follows is mercifully interrupted by an exciting ritual.  There are loud noises and fireworks, dancers and clowns, fire-eaters on stilts and acrobats, and above them all a graphic that reads “Projection!”  It is announced that one of the states is projected to be painted in a certain color even though only 2% of the votes have been counted.

The channel goes back to the reporters.  The first reporter toggles the screen between this election and the election of 1840, when there were fewer states and more log cabins.  The second reporter has a black eye but tells us that we are now going to hear from a correspondent in one of the voting precincts.

The image shifts to a large cat with a poofy face.  It has green eyes and white whiskers that radiate in perfect symmetry.  Behind the cat are people trying to clear a paper jam from the vote-card reader.

The second reporter speaks to the cat.  “Tell us, what are you seeing in terms of voter turnout?”

The cat licks one of its paws, and then rubs the paw over its face a few times in a circular motion.  Then it looks back at the screen and blinks.

“Yes, that seems to be the story we’re hearing all over the nation tonight.”

My TV goes back to the first reporter with the magic screen.  He is showing what the electoral situation might look like if Florida was rotated 90 degrees towards the Gulf of Mexico.

Then the image on my TV shifts to the headquarters of one of the candidates.  From the sequence of percentages that flash at the bottom of the screen, I can tell, using a slide rule, that this candidate is about to have a lot of free time.  But the people at the campaign headquarters still wave their arms and go “Whoooo” when they see themselves on the big screen.

I eat another piece of leftover Halloween candy.  There is a small mound of wrappers next to the bowl.

We’re back to the first reporter with the magic screen again.  The screen is frozen at the election of 2612, with water covering most of the coastal states, and their votes tallied by counting the bubbles that rise to the surface.  The second reporter is trying to help by sticking a pen into the restart button at base of the magic screen, a terrifying treatment for the first reporter, who apparently forgot to save his work.

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Remember When Debates Involved Debating?

When I was in ninth grade and it was announced that we were going to attend a debate by the two candidates for class president, I was surprised to hear that we even had a class president.  Until that moment I had thought our class was governed by an oligarchy of characters from video games who directed the teachers to make us read things like Beowulf.

So one day, instead of spending third period in math class and discussing how a line was equal to itself, we were corralled into the auditorium so that two of our peers could talk about how they were different from each other.

The two candidates stood at podiums on the stage – one on the left, and one on the right.  The candidate on the left, a very nice young woman who until then I had known only as the girl with the purple school bag, was the incumbent president.  The young man on the right – rumored to be a jerk but good at math – her challenger.

After the two candidates each made introductory remarks, displaying their talent for speaking in a monotone directly into a piece of paper, students were allowed to ask questions.  The first question was, “As class president, how would you create more activities for students?”

The left-hand candidate had the chance to speak first, and she said, “Thank you for your question.  Activities are a very important part of a student’s life, and I know that you’re hurting for some activities.  I know what it feels like to have nothing to do.  Last year my parents took away my television privileges because they caught me smoking a cigarette.  All afternoon I had nothing to do except stare at a blank wall.  Eventually my parents realized how important television was to me and let me watch it again, and all was right.  So I know what you mean, and when I’m class president I’m going to make sure that students have lots of activities.”

Then the right-hand candidate interjected, “But student activities declined by over twenty percent since you took office at the end of eighth grade!  When I’m class president, we’re going to reverse that trend.”

Then the left-hand candidate said, “That’s not true.  You are not using accurate statistics.  You should do your homework.”

“I don’t need to do my homework,” he replied, “I’ve always been great at math.  I’m in the honors class.”

Then the teacher-moderator stopped the arguing and invited the next question from a student.

“What are you going to do about the quality of the school lunch?”

The right-hand candidate said, “Thank you for your question.  For years we have been under the oppression of the school lunch.  There is a central authority that decides for us what we should be eating, and it isn’t good!  When I’m class president, my plan is to create a marketplace of lunch vendors, so that students can decide for themselves what they want to eat.”

Then the left-hand candidate said, “Privatizing the school lunch might be nice if you get a big allowance.  But for middle-allowance students, a school lunch marketplace is only going to make an expensive lunch even more expensive.  The answer is to make the existing school lunch taste better.  And I’m going to do that as class president.”

“And how are you going to do that?” asked the teacher-moderator.

“Oh, you want me to elaborate?” asked the incumbent.  “We were told we wouldn’t have to elaborate.”

I couldn’t take it anymore.  It was time to ask these candidates a question that was relevant to our lives.  Activities?  School lunches?  These things were not important.  No matter who won this election, we would still have to go to class.  We would still have to get changed for gym.  We would still have to read Beowulf.  Before I knew it, I was standing at the microphone, clearing my throat, and asking my question.

“What exactly does the class president do?” I asked.

The candidates looked stunned for a moment.  I could hear some laughter behind me, and I sensed that I had asked the single question that everyone had wanted to ask.  My heart filled with such joy I felt close to tears.

And the next thing I knew, I was being escorted out of the auditorium while another student asked a question, and the candidates were articulating their five-point plans for implementing a more convenient schedule of late buses.

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Remember When Ronald Reagan Was Elected to a Second Term?

Remember when Ronald Reagan was elected to a second term as President of the United States?

I do.

The year was 1984.  My parents thought it would be a good experience to take to me to the place where Americans choose their leaders.  They also probably could not find a babysitter.  Our polling place was the school gym, and it was weird to be at my school at night.

I also ran into a classmate of mine who had been brought by her parents who were also duty their civic duty.  It was one of my earliest experiences of that awkward feeling you get when you know someone from only one setting and you see them in a different setting.  Stranger still was meeting her parents.  Just like I did not think my teacher had a home, but stayed in the classroom all night, I did not think the other kids had parents.  I know that sounds strange, but I could not imagine that a person could have different parents than I had.  It was as if they were living on a different planet.

But the strangest thing all night was that my parents had firmly voted for Walter Mondale.  I distinctly remember telling them on the way over that Mondale was going to lose.  Just like I could not imagine having different parents, I could not imagine having a President other than Ronald Reagan.  He just seemed so…Presidential.

Since then I have gotten used to having different Presidents.  I have also gotten used to people having other parents.  I still think the teachers sleep at the school.

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