Friday, August 11, 2017

The Debate of the Ages: Cake or Pie?

Hey Karl, cake or pie?

"There's pie?" asked Karl. "Never mind, I'm on Atkins right now. So, no carbs."

No, there's no pie, I said. Just answer the question: cake or pie?

"If there's no pie, then why are you even asking?" Karl plonked his beer on the bar. We were at First Editions for a slam poetry tournament. Kurt knew a few of the competitors so he made me come to this little struggle of the sonnets.

I didn't quite understand what was happening. How can poetry be competitive? And why was everyone snapping?! I've never quite understood poetry, and the snapping just made it worse.

It's a simple question, Karl. Which is better, cake or pie?

"Kid, of all the idiotic questions you've asked me, that has to be the idiotic-est. There are so many more important things we could discuss, and instead you give me 'cake or pie.'" Karl waved at Kurt to bring two more beers. "I don't want to even dignify that with a response."

Oh, it's a very important question, I said. I've seen people get into shouting matches over it.

"Well, it's a stupid question because the answer is obviously cake."

I knew it! I pegged you as a cake guy the first time we met. Because everyone knows pie is the superior choice.

"You're delusional, Kid. What about birthday cake? You can't beat birthday cake. But no one has ever heard of birthday pie."

True, but do you eat pumpkin cake at Thanksgiving?

Karl crossed his arms. "Maybe."


Sugar Cream Pie - the closest thing to Heaven on Earth.
"Okay, but have you ever seen a naked woman jump out of a pie?"

I can honestly say I have not. Of course, I've never seen a naked woman jump out of a cake either, except for that stupid Steven Seagal movie.

"Besides, there are so many kinds of cakes. Chocolate cake, angel food cake, and my favorite, lemon cake with vanilla frosting."

But there are just as many different flavors of pie. Cherry, raspberry, and what's more American than apple pie? Don't forget lemon meringue.

"I hate meringue," groused Karl.

You can't beat warm cherry pie with ice cream.

"You can have cake and ice cream," said Karl. Kurt hovered nearby, pretending to wipe down the bar.

Sure, but you don't normally serve it warm. But when you get a bite of warm pie and cold ice cream together, there's nothing better.

"What about cheesecake?" Karl said with annoying air of triumph.

I would counter with Indiana's official pie, the Wicks Sugar Cream.

"Oooh, I'll give you that one. Wicks makes a mighty fine pie." Karl took a drink from his beer, and listened to the poet up on stage talk about a broken heart. I had lost track of which broken-hearted poet was currently performing.

"How about pancakes?" said Karl. "You can't beat pancakes on a cold winter morning."

I've got it, I said. Pi.

"We've been through this," said Karl. "What kind of pie?"

Not pie, Pi. The Greek letter. The mathematical symbol. Three-point-one-four-one-five.

"That doesn't even count."

Sure it does. You can't spell 'pie' without Pi. And if I want to calculate the circumference of your birthday cake, I'll need to use Pi.

Karl stared at me, mouth open. I'll tell you something else, I said. Kurt stopped pretending to wipe down the bar and moved closer. Pi contains the secrets of the universe, I said.

"You're drunk, Kid."

I ignored him. As you know, Pi is an infinitely long number with no end. We could try to calculate the end of Pi on the most powerful computer ever made, and it will run to the end of time without ever reaching the end.

Now, if we were to assign each one- and two-digit number to a letter, we could find patterns in that infinite string of letters. Those patterns would form words, and those words would lead to sentences, and those sentences would become stories.

And with that infinite string of words, we can find your name and my name in there. We can find the secret recipe for Coca-Cola, or the Colonel's 11 secret herbs and spices, or the Wicks sugar cream pie recipe.

I pointed up at the stage. We can find that woman's poem, the words to your favorite song, or a version of every Shakespeare play where the word 'forsooth' has been replaced with 'Sweet Jeepers.' We can even find the kind of cake you had on your twelfth birthday and a list of everyone who came to your party.

I leaned in closer. Karl and Kurt did too. And the one thing we'll find, over and over again, ringing like a bell in all that infinity, is the most important phrase you'll ever say.

"What's that?" Karl whispered.

Erik was right all along, I said. Erik was right all along.

The crowd snapped its approval.

If you think this is a dumb question, ask some friends this question and ask them to defend their choice. See what happens and tell me about it in the comments below.

Photo credit: Sarah Stierch (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.

Friday, August 04, 2017

My Application for NASA Planetary Protection Officer

Dear NASA,

Our planet is a fragile orb in a hostile galaxy. We face threats both here on Earth — climate change, the lizard people who live at the center of the planet, plastic grocery bags — as well as threats from "out there."

Whether it's asteroids, alien invaders, or the monster from "Cloverfield," we are rather vulnerable, given our reliance on 20th-century technology and a child's understanding of the threat that aliens present.

But a steady diet of movies, old Omni magazine reprints, and TBS' new comedy hit, "People Of Earth," I'm well aware of the lurking menace we face.

To that end, please find my application for the brand new post of Planetary Protection Officer at NASA.

I feel I would make a perfect candidate for the position, because of my varied experiences in planetary protection studies. My résumé is attached, but I would like to draw your attention to a few important details.

First, I have an outstanding record playing Space Invaders, both the original standup arcade, and later, Atari console game. I became an ace at shooting up through my own shields, and I was often asked by my sister to help her get that last guy.

I was also a dab hand at Asteroids, and am confident that a small crew and I could keep our planet safe from large, medium, and small space rocks. While I could easily fly a manned spacecraft, I believe a smarter strategy would be to develop a series of ships that could be controlled from Earth and deployed in sets of three.

I have also given some thoughts to several strategies and tactics I would develop during my tenure as PPO.

One is to train and equip elite ground troops to be deployed should aliens ever launch a ground attack. I've studied the tactics of Tom Cruise in "Edge Of Tomorrow" and Ellen Ripley from Aliens, and I believe if we were to equip our soldiers with those body suits with forklifts for hands, as well as machine guns on their shoulders — like War Machine from Iron Man 3 — we could give those little green bastards a run for their money.

I would also ask NASA scientists and leading physicists to develop hand-held phaser blasters, similar to those seen in Star Trek and Star Wars, and the plasma blaster from Predator. I realize the U.S. has enough guns that we could probably just drop the entire stockpile onto an invasion and wipe it out, but we may need them later since the battle is never over until you see their mother ship crashed in the desert.

Plus, the guns may be damaged by the alien blood, which as you know, is acid.

While we could use normal firearms, I worry about accuracy and reloading. Pistols are notoriously inaccurate, and semi-automatic rifles are only slightly more so, especially over a long distance. But phaser blasters have an endless energy supply and the bolts fly faster than bullets. If nothing else, a soldier would only have to press the trigger and fire a continuous laser to cut the invaders in half.

Of course, war should only be a last resort, and we should never ignore the lessons that Gene Rodenberry taught us through Star Trek. We should always seek the diplomatic solution first. After all, the aliens may actually only be an exploratory contingent, and eagerly blasting them into atoms may doom us all.

So I would also propose that we put a portion of our annual budget into developing a communications strategy. Since music is a universal language, I would assemble a crack team of musicians including Justin Bieber, Nickelback, and Skrillex to communicate musically with any alien ships that make contact with us.

If they manage to prevent our first intergalactic war, that would be wonderful. But if we're truly about to be invaded, I at least want to go to my own death knowing they died moments before I did.

Finally, while we're probably a couple centuries from cloaking technology — unless you know something I don't — I propose a similar solution that I call Project Disappearing Elephant.

We would collaborate with David Copperfield, who made the Statue of Liberty disappear in 1983, to place a series of mirrors around the planet to make it "vanish." I've taken the liberty of reaching out to Mr. Copperfield's people, and am awaiting a return call.

I read on your website that for this position, the ideal candidate will have "advanced knowledge of Planetary Protection," which I have demonstrated. He or she should also have experience overseeing nationally significant space programs, and have" skills in diplomacy that resulted in win-win solutions during extremely difficult and complex multilateral discussion."

To that end, I'm the father of three older children. And I've read the Star Trek book, The Kobayashi Maru, seven times.

Finally, I understand the position will require frequent travel. Can you tell me whether that's within the country, or will it require international travel? Or will there even be a need for off-planet travel as well? Another plus in my favor is that I don't suffer vertigo or get car sick. Also, I have a new passport.

I look forward to your reply. Thank you.

Photo credit: FitzFox (Pixabay, Creative Commons)

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.