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THE DEATH RAY

19 January 2003

It's fairly safe to say I haven't thought about Arnold Nordsieck in years. Arn is the father of Walt's best friend in college. He died a long time ago. All I really knew about him was that he was a professor of physics. It wasn't until I thought about writing this piece that I went looking for some specific information on the web and discovered that he was a pretty important guy (there is apparently an Arnold Nordsieck scholarship offered at the University of California Santa Barbara). The favorite reference I found was on a site about Robert Oppenheimer and how "Oppie" and Arnold Nordsieck had been at a party and were "reading Plato in the original Greek."

Gee--and I thought he was just our friend's Dad, who made great rum punches.

What made me think of Arn was remembering how he had invented a "death ray." It wasn't really a death ray--it was something that we all called the death ray. (That's why I was researching on the Internet--trying to find something likely that might have been the death ray, but all I could find was the  electrostatic gyroscope. Maybe that was it. I don't know.)

Anyway, he always joked that the only thing it was good for was opening potato chip bags.

Where is Arnold Nordsieck when we need him?

I was sitting in the car outside Office Max. I realized that if I'm going to carry my new Palm Pilot around with me, I needed something more substantial than a pouch made of bubble wrap, so I went to find a carrier. I managed to find a relatively inexpensive (read: "cheap") one at Office Max and, as I had entered my shopping list into the Palm and wanted to take it with me into Safeway, I wanted to put the pilot into the leather carrier before I went into the supermarket.

As is everything else you buy in most stores today, the thing came encased in an overly large molded hard plastic case. I guess it's a sad sign of the times that they have to make things like this to prevent theft, but my word...there is NO WAY TO GET INTO THE BLOODY THING!!! I figured out real fast that there was no way to tear it apart with my bare hands.

Not only are we living in an age when you have to do whatever you can to prevent theft, but it's also dangerous to carry around sharp objects. You never know when Grandma is going to be hauled off to the hoosegow for daring to have a metal nail file on her--she might want to hijack a plane or something. So I had no scissors, knives, or other instruments which might cause me to be in trouble with the law.

How to open the damn package? The closest thing to sharp edge that I had was on my keychain. There is one key that I have no idea what it opens (don't we all have a key like that?) so I figured it was safe to use that--if I bent it, no great loss.

I poked and prodded and pried and cursed and sweared--and prayed for a death ray. It took me a good 15 minutes to finally get into the package.

 If Arn were still alive, he'd be in great demand today.

I decided to have some Kashi cereal for breakfast this morning. I had an unopened box on the shelf. Now that I've been reminded of the death ray, I longed for it as I tried to open the plastic liner to get to the cereal.

Is there anything which is easy to open any more? Only cans, it seems, haven't changed. We're used to can openers, so we don't think twice about having to open a metal cylinder to get to the good stuff inside.

But anything else--cereal, crackers, bread (now that they double wrap bread so once you open the easy outer bag, there's still that sealed-with-cement wrapper inside to deal with), wine bottles (the new stuff that they gunk around the top even before you have to deal with the cork), cookies and, of course, potato chips. They're all (along with a lot more) impossible...or very difficult...to open.

Then there are the non-food items. Who can easily open a CD? Heck, they now make instruments especially designed to remove that annoying bit of tape that seals the CD shut. It's frustrating to struggle with the outer plastic covering, then the inner cellophane shrink wrap and then you STILL can't open the damn thing until you remove the bit of tape that seals it shut...and does it ever come off in one piece? Of course not.

There are just some bits of "progress" that I question. And when it involves the impossibility of opening anything, I question it a lot.

The world needs Arnold Nordsieck and his death ray.

Quote of the Day

The direct use of force is such a poor solution to any problem, it is generally employed only by small children and large nations."

~ David Friedman

Today's Photo

cemetery.jpg (31996 bytes)

another fog picture from yesterday--
is there any better place than a cemetery for

"fog ambience" ?

One Year Ago
Brrrrrrrr
This is one of those times that I would like to be a normal sized person. (Unlike every other day, of course, when I just love waddling around town like a hippopotomus)

Two Years Ago
Some Days are Diamond
We’ve running out of electricity. We're running out of gas. We’re surely going to run out of water soon. George W. Bush is about to become president. John Ashcroft looks like he's going to be approved Attorney General. I’m thinkin’ it’s about time for me to get outta town. I feel like I’m about to enter my own worst nightmare.


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Pounds Lost:  74
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On the Odometer

URL 733
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