Monthly Archives: April 2004

From the Less Mature Files: Wyoming is a Happening Place

This column never made it into the school newspaper, because I had graduated college. Once again, I was on a cross-country trek, and occasionally commited some thoughts to my trusty PowerBook. If I recall correctly, I was in the beautiful town of Gillette, Wyoming, when I penned this column. (And by beautiful, I mean “desolate” and “boring.”)

Although some of the natives of Wyoming scare me (for example, Dick Cheney), I actually spent quite a bit of my childhood in Wyoming. My family owns a cabin in a remote part of Wyoming, and we spent many summer weekends at the cabin. The cabin has no running water, and no electricity. And that wasn’t a bad thing.

Read on to learn about the typical American suburban town.

As best as I can tell, no one actually lives in Wyoming.

This is one of the few states where you can drive for miles and not see anything, even if you’re not blind.

One might argue that Alaska is similar, but I disagree. Alaska doesn’t have roads, so you’d be pressed to drive for miles and not see anything.

As I drove through Wyoming, I found myself scanning the horizon in hopes of seeing the majestic golden arches of McDonald’s.

Like a mirage, the form of the arches would begin to take shape in the distance, but then I would realize that it was just Doodoo Bird dung on the windshield left over from South Dakota.

The point is, I was searching for a familiar source of food, because I was very hungry. As I crossed each hill, I hoped to see a typical suburban town.

A typical suburban town has several distinguishing features.

There will be one road going through the center of town with various places to spend money along it.

There must be a 7-11, which despite being open 24 hours a day, will have a lock on the door and hot dogs left over from the Jurassic Period. (This has been proven with sophisticated carbon dating techniques.)

There must also be three fast food restaurants within sight of each other.

Each must have a drive-thru window, so that people like me can drive through, buy food, and then eat the food in the solitary confinement of the parking lot, since eating Whoppers while driving has been shown to be impossible. (This has been proven with sophisticated carbon dating techniques.)

There must also be two gas stations located directly across the street from each other, with the exact same prices.

The prices must end in the fraction “9/10.” For example, regular unleaded fuel would have a price of 1.339. Eventually, American consumers will realize that our monetary system doesn’t accommodate fractions, and that they’re really paying 1.34 per gallon. Rioting will ensue.

Gas stations now offer different types of gasoline, for example “regular unleaded,” “supreme unleaded,” and “premium unleaded.”

The difference in quality is pronounced, although less pronounced than the difference in price.

In actuality, most “regular unleaded” gas isn’t really unleaded at all, whereas gas stations are “fairly certain” that “premium unleaded” is mostly lead-free, or that it should be, anyway, although Bob at the refinery is a little heavy on the bottle, if you know what I mean.

Most gas stations now charge the same amount for gas whether you pay with cash or credit. To do this, they now just charge the higher credit price even if you pay with cash.

Once again, rioting will ensue when consumers realize this. Consumers will also be irate when they learn that today’s car engines run on water, and that the gasoline they’ve been buying is nothing more than tap water, or bottled water that has passed its expiration date.

Each typical surban town must also have at least one bank.

The primary purpose of a bank is to erect an electric sign which tells the current time and temperature. Most of the time, this electric sign will be illegible since half of the bulbs will be burned out.

Some of these signs will also give the temperature in Celsius, even though no American is capable of comprehending the metric system. (This has been proven with sophisticated carbon dating techniques.)

The signs do this because the bank employees had the instructions upside down when they were reading dip switch settings.

Since maintaining this sign doesn’t require much effort, bank employees have a lot of free time on their hands, and to remedy this, they wash their hands with soap and gasoline — er, water. They also pass time by taking your money and then charging you money to loan your money back to you.

Unfortunately, Wyoming doesn’t have many typical suburban towns, most likely because, as I mentioned earlier, no one actually lives in Wyoming.

– By M. Scott Smith, July, 1996. All rights reserved. –

From the Less Mature Files: Mountain Biking / Mountain Dew

All right, so this one isn’t my favorite column, but now I’m starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel. I wrote this column in 1996, and I really don’t have any problem with road bikers. No, really, I don’t. The whole comment about road bikers looking like dorks was completely uncalled for. I realize that now. Now, I don’t particularly like it when road bikers ride right in the middle of a road oblivious to the traffic around them, but that’s just a minor beef. (And where the heck did that saying come from, anyway? A “minor beef?” That doesn’t make any sense at all. English is silly.)

Read on to learn some differences between mountain biking and road biking. And again, I mean no ill will towards the road biking brethren.

Every now and then, a new fad permeates into the very fabric of our culture.

Wow, can I write, or what?

Mountain biking is one such fad. Other fads have included snowboarding, inline skating, calling people collect, tap dancing in the nude, and overthrowing governments. All have become favorite pastimes which fill our weekends with wholesome fun and entertainment.

Mountain bikes have overtaken road bikes in terms of popularity, even though most people who buy mountain bikes only ride them on roads. This is similar to cars being parked on driveways, and driven on parkways.

The main difference between mountain bikers and road bikers is that road bikers feel a need to wear skin-gripping tights which leave very little to the imagination. This results in most road bikers looking like dorks who apparently don’t own mirrors, which prevents them from seeing how ridiculous they look.

Mountain bikers needn’t pretend that they are cape-wearing super heroes to pedal their two-wheeled vehicles.

Mountain bikes have bigger tires, which makes them slower than road bikes. Road bikes, with their thinner tires, can go faster, which is necessary to escape from motorists who are trying to run them down for looking so ridiculous.

Road bikers also appear to be under the false impression that they are as durable as a car and therefore can intermingle with traffic, sometimes riding in the center of a one-lane road on a winding mountain highway in the middle of a rainstorm at night. Oh what the heck, throw in an earthquake for good measure.

At least road bikers signal with their left hand which direction they are turning, although few motorists are familiar with these signals and often mistake them for other gestures.

Road bikers also often shave their legs, regardless of their gender. Two common reasons given for this bizarre behavior include decreasing wind resistance and making it less painful to remove band-aids, which is a plus since road bikers frequently have scraped up legs resulting from being run down by motorists or signaling which direction they are turning.

But thankfully, mountain bikers and road bikers alike have begun wearing helmets to prevent head injuries.

When the McDonald’s Corporation stopped using styrofoam for its food packaging, styrofoam companies struggled to find new ways to destroy the environment and stay afloat economically. Their research led to the development of bicycle helmets, which are composed of leftover McDonald’s food packaging.

This styrofoam, which comes in designer colors, is placed on the head, and protects the head should it suddenly be catapulted into a tree or spontaneously combust for whatever reason.

Of course, it doesn’t take much knowledge of physics to realize that the bicycle helmets are considerably less durable than, say, a skull, but they do come in designer colors.

There are several places to mountain bike in the Philadelphia area, but for a true mountain biking adventure one must pedal out to Utah.

What makes Utah such a fun place to mountain bike is that you can be pedaling along, and suddenly, ride right off a cliff and fall several hundred feet onto sharp rocks below.

I can’t describe to you the euphoria of being in free-fall on your mountain bike, mainly because I’ve never been in free-fall on my mountain bike.

But something like this happened in a Mountain Dew commercial once, so it must be a hip thing to do.

If you do ride your mountain bike in Philadelphia, be careful to lock it securely, because they have a high theft rate.

Thieves will gladly take any piece of your mountain bike they can get. For some reason, quick-releases are especially popular, which doesn’t make much sense to me since they cost so little and have little value outside of attaching a tire to a bike or lobbing at ridiculous-looking road bikers.

I have two possible theories to explain their high rate of theft. Either employees of bicycle stores steal them, so they can re-sell them to you in a never-ending cycle, or road bikers go around stealing them.

M. Scott Smith is a senior majoring in computer science. He plans on mountain biking in Utah in July.

– By M. Scott Smith, 1996. All rights reserved.

And These People Have Guns

On Saturday, members of the National Rifle Association gathered in Pittsburgh for their annual convention. And wow, what a fun convention that must be.

Vice President Dick Cheney provided a keynote speech at the event, where he received a standing ovation from like-minded NRA members. In his 25-minute speech, Cheney found ample opportunity to knock Presidential candidate John Kerry, assuring NRA members that Kerry would be a threat to gun owners (despite that Kerry is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment), but did not find the time to discuss the federal assault weapons ban, which is due to expire in September. The NRA has been lobbying strongly to have the federal assault weapons ban repealed. I know; they keep leaving breathless, multi-minute computer-generated messages on my voicemail, effectively saying that the country will simply melt away and evaporate if the assault weapons ban is renewed.

The Associated Press is reporting that Tom Mauser, whose son, Daniel, was brutally killed with an assault weapon in the Columbine High School killings five years ago, “tried to enter the convention hall where the NRA was meeting, seeking to urge Cheney to support extending the assault weapons ban.” Mauser literally walked to the convention hall in his dead son’s shoes.

The AP reports that “Mauser was turned away by a security guard as several conventioneers applauded. A couple conventioneers yelled ‘Get a life’ and ‘Vote for Bush.'”

Again, this is a man whose son lost his life.

I suppose the NRA leadership is anxious for the assault weapons ban to expire so they can once again stack the deck against those ducks they enjoy hunting so much. Because the ducks are just so hard to hit with normal rifles. (Insert your favorite duck hunting joke about Cheney and his pal Supreme Court Justice Scalia here.)

Is Spring Over Already?

It’s only April 17, but the temperature today shot up close to 90, providing a good excuse to get outside and wash the car and go for a bike ride. Sadly, it seems like spring lasted about 4.5 hours this year. I’m not a big fan of summers in Maryland.