Code, nerd culture and humor from Greg Knauss.

So Mark and I are in Vegas for DEFCON, an underground hacker/phreaker convention. We're sitting in the Treasure Island buffet, just starting to eat when I notice a woman passing our table.

She's wearing jeans and a big leather belt and one of those ribbed T-shirts that some people wear successfully and she was managing spectacularly. My chin gets food all over it when it falls into my plate.

She looks over at me and I try to casually look away, like I had just happened to be looking at her when she looked over at me. I end up looking at Mark, who's looking over at her, and I figure that since he's looking at her, she's no longer looking at me and I look back at her just as she stops looking at Mark and looks back at me.

I'm subtle that way.

She walks over to the table where her friend is sitting and they start talking.

Suddenly, they both turn towards me and I realize that I'm still looking at them.

"Hi," I say, before my brain can seize control and think of something to do. "We were checking you out. Sorry!"

Standing to our right is the waitress, who's come out of nowhere and is waiting to take our drink orders. "Well, at least it's original," she says. "I've never heard that one before."

I ask for a Dr. Pepper and spend the rest of the meal slumped down in my seat, apparently turning all sorts of shades of red.

Then we went to see Cirque Du Soliel and ended up with better seats that George and Barbara Bush, who were there too.

So I'm riding around Hollywood at ten o'clock the other night with my sister and my roommate. We've just eaten dinner and Barbara is taking us on a little tour of some of her stomping grounds.

As we turn a corner, I notice a guy standing in front of an apartment building. He's dressed in a white shirt and a tie and looks like a typical downtown worker coming home after a late evening at the office. But he's just standing there, hands in his pockets -- he must be waiting for somebody.

We round the corner, and I look back, out the rear window to keep watching him.

I don't suppose he expected that, because as soon as we make the turn, he pulls his hands out of his pockets, drops into a slight squat and spins a damned fine pirouette.

He's got both arms up, with his hands held close to his chest, one foot up with the knee splayed out sideways.

He spins around twice before slowing down. He brings the raised leg down and puts his hands back into his pockets.

I need to visit Hollywood more often.

So it's nine o'clock on a Saturday night and I'm on the roof of a friend's condo with half a dozen other people. Earlier in the day he'd dragged his telescope up, and now we're failing to see Shoemaker-Levy smash into Jupiter and eating popsicles.

I don't really have a story to tell here. I just wanted to make sure you know that I don't spend every weekend organizing my cereal.

So it's nine o'clock on a Saturday night and I've got an entire box of Marshmallow Alpha-Bits spread out on the kitchen table. In front of me are pieces of cereal arranged like this:

 a   e   i     o     u   y  ABCDEF HIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ 

The letters on top are the Double Marshmallow vowels. These are little bits of "marshmallow" that have the consistency and brightness of primary-color children's chalk, but only about half the taste. The letters on the bottom are the regular pieces of cereal, the entire alphabet -- except for the G. I've been through every pieces of cereal in the box and there's no G.

This disturbs me.

I figure there's a couple of possible reasons:

One: I just happened to buy a box of cereal without any Gs. The odds against this, though, seem astronomical.

Two: The Gs are very fragile and they've all crumbled into the unrecognizable little bits that litter the bottom of the box. But I don't see anything about a G that's any more unstable than, say, a C. And there's lots Cs (none of which, by the way, are broken Gs -- I checked.)

Three: For their own nefarious purposes, the manufacturer has maliciously decided to exclude Gs from every box of Marshmallow Alpha-Bits as part of their dastardly plan to control the world.

I haven't worked out all the details yet, but I think I'm on to something with this last idea...

Why is everybody looking at me funny?

So I walk into the supermarket and instantly become some sort of id-turned-physical. I wander up and down the aisles, yelping "Want that and that and that and that and that." I'm not shopping so much as impulse buying on a massive scale.

As I'm wheeling the cart back to the car, I realize that, among other things, I've bought:

  • A giant, mutant three-liter bottle of pineapple soda
  • JIF peanut butter, and the only reason I can think of is because "Choosy moms choose JIF!"
  • A one-pound bag of salami
  • Some hard, crunchy plums
  • A giant, mutant two-quart jar of salsa
  • Shampoo
  • Pop-Tarts, grape, with frosting
  • Some aerosol spray by the name of "Easy Cheese, Cheddar and Bacon Flavor"
Using this stuff to organize a coherent meal would be a real challenge if I didn't have a blender.

So I'm driving down to San Diego to see the Seinfeld concert and my car suddenly starts wanting to veer into the center divider, making the noise "wubbwubbwubbwubb" by way of explanation.

When I arrive at my friend's house, I squat down and take a look under the car and notice that the left-front tire has a patch along the inside were one belt of the radial has wore entirely through and a second is well on its way.

Oops.

I think about this hard for a moment, quickly deciding that I don't want to think about it. Worry about it later, I say to myself. Something will come up.

So we go to see Seinfeld and he's funny, but I don't think I've ever seen so many upper-middle-class, upper-middle-aged white (very white) people so eager about anything in my whole life. One guy leaps out of his seat, wildly applauding, the second Jerry steps out on stage. He looks around, notices that nobody else is standing, and sheepishly sits down. The warm-up act keeps mentioning Petula Clarke as a generational reference. (This helps explain, I think, why I've paid a third the price for closer seats at baseball games...)

Afterwards, it's only ten o'clock, so we decide to head out to the Barona Casino, about an hour from downtown. It's an Indian reservation and they have legal blackjack, poker, slots, all that. I once gotten trapped about five miles from Barona when my fuel pump failed at two-thirty in the morning, so I know it's a place to have a good time.

We arrive and play for maybe three hours. When I go to get my chips cashed in, the woman behind the counter slides back two shiny, new hundred dollar bills.

The next day, I wake up and wubbwubb down to the nearest garage and get all four tires replaced. The bill is $200.27.

And my dad says I never plan for anything.

So I'm trapped on the 405, my window rolled down and the fan spitting out a lukewarm breeze. I'm watching the heat gauge in my car fight against the top of the dial as I slowly inch past one of those car-dealership again. Today their sign says:

TREASURE THIS MOMENT

If I could get over in time -- if I could find four people willing to let me take their oh-so-precious space in a miles-long line -- I swear, quietly and to myself, that I'd exit at the next off-ramp, drive back to the lot and quietly but thoroughly explain to the weasel that programs the sign that there's nothing to treasure in this particular moment. That this particular moment is entirely untreasureable. Then I'd drop him off at the hospital. While driving by.

I take several deep breaths.

As traffic continues to creep along, I can barely make out another sign at another car-dealership ahead. As I get closer, it becomes clearer, but I don't want to believe that it says what I think it says. It can't possibly. No...

The sign says:

B A GLOOMBUSTER SMILE

Now, ignoring for a moment the fact that they spelled "be" as "B" -- which is hard enough to do -- they. Screwed up. THE GRAMMAR. AGAIN!

I start making a slow, crawling growl, deep in my throat.

I am not going to be a gloom-buster smile. I refuse to be a gloom-friggin'-buster smile.

I may, one day when I'm standing over the sticky goo that used to be the man who wrote that sentence, have a gloom-buster smile.

Stupid sign.

Hi there! My name's GREG KNAUSS and I like to make things.

Some of those things are software (like Romantimatic and Buzz Clock), Web sites (like the Webby-nominated Metababy and The American People) and stories (for Web sites like Suck and Fray, print magazines like Worth and Macworld, and books like "Things I Learned About My Dad" and "Rainy Day Fun and Games for Toddler and Total Bastard").

My e-mail address is greg@eod.com. I'd love to hear from you!

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