Code, nerd culture and humor from Greg Knauss.

Attention whoever is in charge of delivering ironic justice: you missed one.

Yesterday, I saw a newish Mercedes, parked, empty, running, with the keys in it and the air conditioner going full blast. The owner had apparently just popped into a store and didn't want to suffer through the hundred-degree temperature for one second longer than necessary.

So, of course, they were supposed to have to wait in the sweltering heat for the police to arrive, then for the walk to the bus, then...

I have this list I carry around in my head, called "People Who Need to Be Slapped Around." It's a collection of individuals to whom fate is currently doing a sloppy job of delivering comeuppance. Members come and go as needed, with only "The Entire Nation of France" claiming a permanent spot.

Last night, I was driving to do some errands and got cut off by a gold -- not yellow, gold -- Corvette with a license plate that read "PRVLDGE."

And France gets some company.

I'm wandering around the hosptial with Tom while Jo and Michael get some rest and I'm utterly and completely failing to keep him from getting into everything that a toddler can possibly get into in a hospital.

"No, Thomas, that's a nurses station."

"No, Thomas, that's someone's room."

"No, Thomas, that's... Um, that's labeled 'biohazard.'"

Michael Ryan. His name is Michael Ryan Knauss.

You want to throw up.

Your wife, your beautiful wife, is in agony, pushing and crying and gulping down air and there's nothing you can do but hold her hand and hold her head and count off the time. "Breathe," you remind her. "Big breath."

And the doctor and the delivery nurse and the student they always drag in are all telling you that just one more push is going to do it, just one more, one more, for fifteen minutes, just one more. And all you want to do is throw up.

But then: he's here. He's here. Your wife collapses back, sweat beaded on her forehead and tears streaming down her face, and she laughs. She laughs. And you laugh. And the room spins in a blur because he's here. And from somewhere, somewhere, there's a very, very small cry.

And they lift him up and put him into your wife's arms and your chest can't contain your heart and you're shaking so badly that you have trouble grabbing the scissors to cut the cord.

And you love him, instantly and competely. Eyes swollen shut and bullet-headed and messy and bloody and the most beautiful thing you have ever seen, you love him, you love him, you love him.

He cries a little, shaking, in his mother's arms and you laugh again and things are as good, as wonderful, as perfect as they can possibly be.

Two forty-five PM, eight pounds three ounces, mother and perfect little baby boy are doing fine.

From very, very far away a hand is gently rocking my shoulder. A voice is saying something.

"...gotta get going."

I must have fallen back to sleep. I was reading in bed after breakfast and I must have fallen back to sleep. The lead blanket starts to slide away from my brain and I focus just a little better, rising out of the nap.

"Greg, wake up. You've gotta get going."

It's Joanne. She's waking me. She's intently rocking my shoulder and telling me we have to get going. I blink a little and run my hand over my face. Joanne. Get going. Joanne. Pregnant. Due. Gotta get going.

Oh, my God.

I lurch out of bed, swaying slightly, fighting disorientation. "OK," I say. "Um. OK."

"I'm really sorry I woke you," she says.

"No, no. Let's, ah--"

"It's just that the videos have to be back by noon or they charge us for an extra day."

Stupid evangelistic vegetarians.

They make these stickers, deep red with white letters, that say "Eating Meat." That's it, just "Eating Meat." They're supposed to be stuck on stop signs, so they read "Stop Eating Meat." Because moral suasion works best when conducted from traffic signage.

So I'm going to start making stickers, deep red with white letters, that say "I Like." That's it, just "I Like."

To, y'know, make them mad. Stupid evangelistic vegetarians.

So how come the only time I don't want to sleep is a two in the goddamned morning?

It was Freak Night at Ralphs again.

Every once in a while, I'll stop by the store on my way home from work and everyone there -- top to bottom, front to back -- will be spontaneously conforming to some unannounced theme: Beautiful Young Person Night, Very Tired Night, Ugly Night. Like peaks in independent waves all lining up at once, the aisles are packed, just packed, with people who all manage to share a particular trait, drawn to Ralphs at the same time by mysterious forces.

And last night it was Freak Night. Again.

There was the woman with a nose so upturned that a strong flashlight would give you a good look at her brain stem. There was the guy whose hair looks like a badly-dyed toupee. There was the lady with the extra skin. There was the biker from the Village People. On and on, more and more -- freaks, freaks everywhere, to the rafters, freaks, freaks, freaks.

Um. Except me. I, um, just stopped by for some groceries.

The fiendish, shadowy figures who want us to drink more soda now want us to drink it faster, too. You can't buy a Pepsi with a normal pop-top opening anymore -- they're all suddenly twice as big. At this rate, a can that leaps at your face, gives you a tracheotomy and pours itself into your throat is about three years away.

In a desperate attempt to avoid becoming the Every Couple of Weeks Instigator, the Daily Instigator publishes silly nonsense.

A brief note to men who think it's OK to talk to me while we use the urinals:

Stop it. You're creepy.

Last night, while watching the trouble in downtown LA, I saw one guy pick up a trashcan and start to throw it at an abandoned police car. But then he notices a guy standing on the hood, busy whacking at the windshield with a board. So he waits. He puts the trashcan down and politely waits for the other guy to finish and step down, back into the crowd. Then he re-hefts the can and heaves it at the car's roof.

Just because he's a vandal doesn't mean he's rude.

What the world needs now is more bag-pipers, is what.

And it needs them very, very far away from me.

The next bit of software that announces a new version of itself by slowly blinking its toolbar icon at me -- On... Off... On... Off... -- not only gets deleted, but gets hex dumped to the printer and shredded, just for the sheer gleeful joy of it.

Hey... I just noticed that the phrase "Might as well be" sounds an awful lot like "Marcus Welby."

That means something. I'm sure of it.

"The program doesn't work."

"No?"

"No."

"Oh."

"Well... why?"

"I don't know. What error did it give you?"

"Error?"

"Yes, error. I'm assuming that you know that it doesn't work because you got an error."

"Yeah."

"Well, what was it?"

"Um. It said 'Failure' or something."

"'Or something'?"

"Yeah."

"Well, then. Thanks for that exhaustive problem report. I'll get right on it."

The guy in front of me is driving a big, black, three-quarter-ton truck. He's had his blinker on for the past five or six miles, but hasn't made a move into the empty lane next to him for any of that time. As I get closer, I notice that he's also got half a dozen rods of rebar in the bed, none marked with a red flag, the long metal spikes dangling over the gate into four feet of empty space behind him -- right where a rear-ending driver's face would be. He's swerving slightly as I pull past, because his head is tilted back while he puts in eye drops.

So of course I push the big red button on the dashboard and pull on my welder's goggles. The trunk folds open and the hairs on my arm stand on end as the pulse laser starts to prime. There's a blinding flash of light, a sharp crack of rended air and the big, black, three-quarter-ton truck, its driver and his eyedrops are reduced to the faint smell of ozone and a few swirling whisps of smoke.

Or at least that's what would happen if the world were the way it should be.

Feeding Tom dinner, he'll sometimes smear spaghetti sauce or vegetable beef stew all over his cheeks, where it resembles nothing so much as a sickly-yellow five o'clock shadow. He looks like a little, jaundiced Nixon.

The station has since been remodeled, with white concrete and bright overhead lights and actual flowers in the planter that used to be filled with AstroTurf.

It... It's just not the same...

Yesterday, Joanne and I got eight -- Eight! Eight! -- seperate pre-approved credit card applications in the mail. The same companies that keep threatening to cancel our accounts because we don't make them enough money -- we pay off the full balance each month -- spent over $2.50 (just in postage) to fill our paper recycle bin slightly higher.

If you listen hard enough, you can hear the world going insane.

I suck. I always intended to do this, but never got around to it. Because, y'know, there was all that important TV-watching to get to.

I took out a new shirt today and thought, "Geez, this thing's as big as a tent." Then I put it on and thought, "Hey, this fits nice."

I didn't actually understand the implication of putting those two thoughts together until later, on the way in to work.

I had a plan. I was going to look at the poll results this morning and declare that -- seeing as the public had spoken so dramatically -- my lunch for today was going to be: a sandwich.

And a hamburger. And pizza. And sushi.

I'd be abiding by the will of the majority, y'see, because "Bug" wasn't supposed to clear fifty percent. If all the other stuff added up to over half the votes, I could just eat that -- all that -- and claim to have followed the poll.

Plus I'd get to make a pig out of myself. Win-win.

But no. More than half of you sickos just had to choose "Bug." I'll bet you stand on sidewalks and chant "Jump, jump, jump!" too.

OK, so, Plan B: If I invalidate the votes of the 54 people who had their decision automatically made for them by an off-site troublemaker (whom I'll call by the pseudonym "Derek Powazek" to protect his identity) that leaves "Bug" with... 50.2%.

Crap.

OK, fine, I'll eat the damned bug.

I was hoping I'd be able to find a restaurant that served bugs -- or, at least, served them intentionally -- and I'd get to have some sort of tasty bug platter for lunch, rounded out with a salad and a Coke. I mean, this is LA.

But, apparently, no such place exists. Out of all the nonsense that goes on in this town -- out of all the earthy, New Agey, hippy, goofy nonsense -- you'd think they'd have at least one good bug restaurant. It doesn't sound so far fetched if you've been living here a while. If a city can support a whole host of dog therapists, then, dammit, there should be at least one bug restaurant.

So instead, I made a noontime appointment at an aquarium shop. They were really nice, once they stopped laughing at me.

When I arrived, the owner went into the back and retrieved a hearty cricket from the freezer. (You kill crickets by freezing them.) It was big bug: beefy, impressivly developed, as if it had spent a fair amount of time down at the bug gym, lifting bug weights, bulking up. It was, in short, the sort of bug that inspires the phrase, "Man, I sure wouldn't want to have to eat that."

One employee told me that crickets didn't taste so bad -- it's mealworms you've really gotta look out for -- but gave me a packet of McDonald's ketchup anyway, if I was the squeamish sort.

OK.

There is no delicate way to eat a bug. You just close your eyes, open your mouth and pretend that what you're chewing on is a spindly, slightly crunchy piece of steak. It didn't taste bad -- the ketchup over-powered the cricketiness of it -- but it wasn't exactly tender either.

Chew, chew, chew. Chew, chew. Chew. Swallow.

Just a note, if you're ever going to do this: Have the water handy before you start.

I ate a bug.

Every once in a while you get a reminder of your place in the universe.

My son said his first word today: "Zoe," the name of the dog.

Their innards had exploded, stiffening and expanding until their bodies cracked and gave way. Foaming muck splattered the walls as a perfect inverted T split them from end to end. They never stood a chance...

Most people cook; I have episodes of "The X-Files" in my kitchen.

If you ever get the bright idea to stick some sodas in the freezer so they'll be cold in time for dinner, you should make sure that you remember they're there before you head off to bed. Because otherwise, you're going to spend the next morning slopping root-beer-scented goo off of the frozen peas.

I drove something like six hundred miles yesterday and learned a few things in the process:

  • Bug ichor is clear. At least that particular bug, and at that particular angle.

  • Never trust a restaurant whose name is a pun.

  • The same three women sing the frequency -- "One oh two point seven!" -- of every FM radio station in the country.

  • The sign that says "See Canyon, Next Right" is directional, not instructional.

  • You know you're in the boonies when you hit "Seek" on the radio and the first five stations it finds are, in order: religious, religious, country, religious, country. Also, use of the phrase "Rockin' the tri-counties area!" is a sign from God to speed up.

  • When you finally give up on finding a quirky local beachside restaurant that isn't either packed or completely lacking in parking and head into IHOP, it's still worth your time to find one that doesn't smell like a wet rag.

So it's about two weeks before Halloween and Joanne and I are in the local drug store, picking up some candy. On the way out, we pass a stuffed cat with a sticker on it's paw that says "Squeeze me here!"

When I squeeze, a speaker inside the cat lets out a low, mournful meow; a Halloween-cat meow; a you-squeezed-my-paw meow. So it do it again.

This time, the meow becomes a howl, followed by a brief, angry ffft!

"I'm teasing the cat," I say to Joanne.

I squeeze the paw again, and the cat's angry now. It growls and yelps and screeches, ffft-fffting along. I look around to see who might wonder what I'm doing to a cat, over here in the corner, but nobody's looking at us.

And when I squeeze again -- and you would have, too -- the cat actually jumps up at me. I suck in a breath and pull my had back suddenly and it shakes and skitters and lets out the most God-awful series of angry cat noises I've ever heard.

I turn to Joanne and say, "It's a toy that teaches children to taunt cats."

We watch it for a minute, as it vibrates across the counter.

"I wonder if they have an artificial bee-hive we can poke with a stick."

(This is the Lost EOD. I wrote it a couple of years ago, then lost it. It has since been found, and scolded for running off.)

You can tell how old movies are by the computers in them. Nothing pegs "Presumed Innocent" as a decade gone quite like the PS/1 Harrison Ford spends a few minutes poking at. Oooo! Text mode!

So he's got one hand on the steering wheel and another on the stick shift and another gripping a cigarette and another cradling his cell phone and another, for all I know, with its thumb wedged firmly up his ass, and he's not paying one damned bit of attention where he's going and he almost blows around the corner without looking, right into me, as I cross the street.

So, of course, I add one more radial appendage to the mix by giving him the finger.

This is how I spent my time before I had a wife and a kid.

So, y'know, there's marital hope for everybody.

That we live in the Age of Communication is a damnedable, filthy lie. The technology is all there -- rah -- but none of it says anything. No data is transmitted. I might as well be asking questions of my dog.

I just spent half an hour trying to get a simple answer: how much does it cost to convert my Airtouch-capable Samsung phone to Sprint PCS? Sprint's Web site doesn't have the information and demands my blood type for the privilege of asking via e-mail. Neither does the site include Sprint's 800 number. 1 (800) SPRINT-PCS doesn't work. 1 (888) SPRINT-PCS doesn't work. The toll-free directory is jammed, telling me to try again half a dozen times. Once connected, Sprint's national number gives me a local number, which in turn says that no one is available right now and I'll be sent to voice mail. Voice mail tells me that it's full and hangs up on me.

Aaaaagh! Hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.

The LA Times ran a pre-obituary on Bob Hope yesterday.

It's a long-standing tradition for news organizations to have -- prepared and waiting -- obituaries for famous old-timers like Hope. When a duffer finally kick off, the editor just pulls out the file, changes a few dates and runs the story. Simple. Economic, too. And ghoulish, of course, but we're not going to think about that.

But everybody does it, so there's not much news value in each individual obituary -- they all sort of get clumped up together and, a few hours after the fact, nobody remembers one from another from another.

The Times, though, has beaten everybody to the punch. The Mike Downey column for Sunday, June 4, was an obituary, in fact and deed, if you ignore the fact that Bob Hope isn't dead yet.

Oh, sure, it could be labeled a "tribute," too -- it said nice things about the man, and told funny old stories -- but tributes are supposed to appear when someone is being honored, or has a birthday, or is Grand Marshalling the Rose Parade. Not when they're lying in the hospital after an extended illness.

For all of Downey's good intentions -- and there were plenty, I'm sure -- the article was nothing but morbid, and more than a little creepy. Bob Hope isn't dead yet. Let's give him that long, at least, before we start with the eulogies.

So I'm sitting at a stoplight and the guy in front of me has a bumper sticker that says "Warning: In case of Rapture, this car will be unmanned!"

Now, assuming that smug sanctimoniousness isn't a sin that would prevent you from being called to the Rapture, how much would it suck to be in front of this geek when it actually comes? Not only have you been passed over for entry into Heaven, but you're also going to get rear-ended.

I made someone disappear yesterday.

Late last week, my father-in-law's girlfriend died suddenly. Heart attack. One day she was there, the next day she wasn't -- blam. I went to the funeral, but that was the first time I had ever seen her, lying in her casket.

Yesterday, I helped clean out her apartment. It was a small place, a studio, and the work mostly involved stuffing things into plastic bags for Goodwill to come pick up. Shoes: bag. Clothes: bag. Bedding: bag. Books, knick-knacks, art: bag. Every material possession she had: bag, bag, bag. In two hours, it was all gone. Wiped clean. Erased.

There were little things all around -- a mug that said "My Next Husband Will Be Normal," an ab workout tape, a styrofoam box of leftovers in the fridge -- that whispered the same lie that each of us tell ourselves every day: Of course I'm going to be here tomorrow. Of course. I've got plans. Where would I go?

We are all nothing but fools.

Because we do go and we do die and none of our plans make any difference in that. Poof. Gone. Even the things that get kept -- the material things -- will eventually rot away, break down, be stuffed into plastic bags. Erased and forgotten.

Memories are all we can really leave behind. The words; the thoughts; the secret, private moments -- they're what last. They're the only things that last, really.

I made someone disappear yesterday, but only because I never knew her. To those that held some part of her that couldn't packed away, she still exists, and she always will.

Dear Mr. Car Salesman,

Please remove yourself from my leg. Please stop calling my house every day. Please, please, for the love of God, please just leave me and my family alone for a little while. If we decide to buy the car you're selling, we'll let you know. We promise.

What is it with you guys? I mean, geez.

As my hairline retreats -- at something like sixty or seventy miles an hour -- it occasionally forgets a follicle, abandoning a lone hair to the empty, expanding plain that is my forehead. I like to think of these guys as plucky survivors, skulking behind enemy lines. That, or really long, really lost eyebrow hairs.

Actual fortune cookie I got the other night:

    A handful of patience is worth more than a bushel of brains.

Punchline

1 (of 3): Yes, but how much more? We've got a commodities market going here!

2 (of 3): And after the thresher was through with them, their brains stood in the field, neatly busheled.

3 (of 3): Ah, damn. I dropped my handful of patience. Where the hell did it-- Oh, screw it. I'll never find it in this light.

Re-load to collect them all!

Hipsters crack me up.

I was driving home yesterday and passed an open-topped Jeep with a guy slouching in the back. He had on baggy, military-green pants and a faded t-shirt and a loosely-knit yarn cap, pulled down over his eyes. His goatee was shaggy and unkempt, his earrings indifferent metal hoops and his face suffered some sort of sagging malaise that can only communicate one of two things: "Whatever." or "I am in a vegetative coma." He was the perfect picture of studied indifference.

And the last thing he probably wanted was to inspire a by-the-book, boring, kid-and-a-mortgage type white guy to start laughing out loud at him as he scooted down the freeway. But I couldn't help myself. Oh, Lordy. Oh, my.

I think it was the hat that did it.

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!

This site is powered by Movable Type. Spot graphics provided by Thomas, Michael and Peter Knauss.