Alabama & 9/11

I’ve said this before, but let me preface this rare, politically-charged post by reminding everyone that I am not a reporter, nor am I college student writing a paper. The idea for this piece came from listening to this week’s This American Life. I’m not going to look up names, citations or facts. Take that however you want.

Alabama has passed a really harsh immigration law that hopes to encourage self-deportation by making the life of illegal immigrants really hard. I could talk about how the law will actually torpedo the economy, having already caused international companies to bail on multimillion dollar projects in Alabama. I could also talk about how fucked the people who pushed this law are now that they want to take some of it back; they’ve got to un-convinced their constituents that getting rid of Mexicans is the answer (how ironic).

No, what really got to me was hearing the original guy who started coming up with these ideas in the first place. It began, unsurprisingly, with 9/11. A few of the hijackers were in the country illegally. He realized that they’d all gotten traffic violations. His theory is that if cops were forced to check citizenship status while pullingthem over, these guys would’ve been caught and 9/11 avoided.

I see this all over the place in the past decade: people with half-assed ideas that think 9/11 could have been avoided if only one thing was solved. In this case it’s if we had better immigration law enforcement that convinced people to self-deport.

Because a bunch of guys who willingly kamikazed themselves would say “man, it’s so hard to be in this country illegally, I’m going to self-deport.”

More importantly, the terrorists were smart and capable. In a way, yes, it would be nice to think it’s our own fault and would have had a simple remedy. But we’re talking about an organization that planned and executed the murder of over 3,000 people, taking the Twin Towers and a chunk of the Pentagon with them. Do these law makers really believe that if we had stronger enforcement of immigration laws the terrorists wouldn’t have found a way around it?

It’s scary to know there are smart, organized people out there plotting to kill you and your loved ones. Literally. I spent over a year working in Times Square and now I work by Penn Station. My wife works by Grand Central Station. Let’s be clear: if there’s another successful attack on the United States, me, my friends and my family are very likely to be involved. They were on 9/11.

I can’t say I’m educated enough on immigration laws to debate their value. I don’t believe that they’re costing US workers that many jobs (at least jobs they’re willing do) but that’s a gut feeling that could be wrong. I will say, without a shadow of a doubt, the people who will self-deport or get kicked out by these laws will not be terrorists with rich organizations backing them and years of plotting. They will be poor workers making low wages.

The Well-Connected Apartment

Apartment 2B loved Jordan very much.

When Mary was going to give birth, it saw to it that the locks on the door broke. She had to give birth to Jordan in the living room.

During his childhood years, Apartment 2B spoke to the surrounding sidewalks and made sure they’d always get in Jordan’s way. Jordan thought he was clumsy and spent most of his time indoors. Apartment 2B liked that.

In his early adulthood, Jordan left the apartment and found his own place.

For years, Apartment 2B would try to get him back. It would talk to its friends who knew the apartments Jordan was living in and convince them to spring leaks or have fault wiring. But Jordan would never move back. Why would Jordan want to live with his parents?

A few years after Jordan first moved out, his parents died in a car accident due to poor road conditions. Maybe it’s just a coincidence that the road they were driving on was good friends with Apartment 2B.

So Jordan inherited Apartment 2B. Until he met a woman and fell in love. She tried to convince him to sell it before they got married.

Apartment 2B did not like that at all.

The End.

My One & Only Video Game Idea

Careful, Marty! One mistake and you could end up as Eric Stoltz!

I’ve never been much of a gamer, let alone thought about designing games. Those dreams died in third grade when I designed my idea for a Super Mario Bros. 3 and sent it to Atari (look, I didn’t have a Nintendo at the time, okay?). They sent it right back saying they couldn’t accept unsolicited ideas and something to the effect of “but keep at it!” Thanks for the faux-encouragement, Atari. Way to kill a kid’s dream.


Recently I came up with an idea for a video game I would love to play. I call it PARADOX. And it’s just as nerdy as the title implies

The game would have to take place in a relatively small geographical area and over a short period of the protagonist’s time (like 24 hours). Otherwise, the story and puzzles it presents won’t work as well.

The goal is to accomplish something (doesn’t matter what, that’s just the McGuffin) that requires you to keep going back in time throughout the course of the game. Of course, every time you go back you duplicate yourself: the first time there’s the you who lived through the events originally, and the you who traveled back. The second time there’s the first you, the second you who traveled back in time first and the current you. And so on.

However, to win the game you can’t create any paradoxes by changing what one of your past selves did in a way that would cause them to change their actions. For instance, if earlier in the game you uncovered a clue that helped you get where you are now, you can’t alter that moment in a trip to the past.

There could be more complicated layers to it by not only having to avoid creating a paradox by interfering the past but completing pre-destination paradoxes. For instance, if during one trip through time you run into your future self who tells you something important, later in the game, when you’ve become that future-you, you must do exactly what you remember him doing.

Sounds awesome, right? I bet Atari wishes they’d hired me now.

Perspective & Time: A Very Brief Meditation on an Idea

As anyone who’s taken a little bit of science in school knows, we’re all made up of molecules that are made up of atoms. These tiny particles aren’t actually stacked directly next to each other, they’re just held closely – but loosely – together by forces. In between them there’s empty space.

But from our perspective, we all have solid, continuous physical forms. For instance, you can put your finger on your arm and trace an unbroken path. Despite all that empty space between the atoms that make up our bodies, it gives a completely convincing illusion of being totally solid.

What about time? We perceive the present as a continuous chain of events that began in the past. With each moment that passes, the present becomes a part of the past and the future becomes the present without a perceived break in the chain. But what if this, too, is only a matter of our perspective? What if time is not continuous and instead it’s a bunch of discrete moments that only appear unbroken but, in fact, they’re only not one continuous thing? If we could look at time from a different vantage point, the way we’re able to look at cells under a microscope, would time start to look different?

And if time is just a bunch of discrete particles, do they rearrange themselves like atoms and molecules do? Could we eventually learn to manipulate them the way we’ve begun to learn how to manipulate the less existential building blocks of life?

There’s a good science fiction story buried somewhere in here. I’ll find it. Feel free to share your own thoughts. And, by the way, blame this post on me watching too much Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking.

The World’s First Scratch & Sniff Superhero!

This was originally going to be a short story. Instead, it turned into a character profile. It was inspired by a tweet and sketch by Jess Kirby. 

Ronnie was Dr. Brackoli’s top assistant in the Advanced Lab for Scratch & Sniff Technology at the University of Southern California. Brackoli had pioneered a new wave of scratch & sniff technology that made him rich beyond his wildest dreams. The money and the fame unlocked the madness deep inside him. Thinking himself a god, he kidnapped Ronnie and performed twisted scratch & sniff experiments on him.

He turned various areas of Ronni’s body, such as his forearms, into scratch and sniff zones. When scratched, not only would they give off a scent, but Ronnie would be able to mimic the properties of whatever odor he exuded. A fairly useless talent when the smell was something like strawberries but a deadly one when unleashing odors such as nitroglycerin.

Unfortunately for Dr. Brackoli, Ronnie was a smart and resourceful chap. He was able to create her own powerful scratch and sniff smells, eventually breaking free and turning Brackoli over to the authorities. Now he uses her unique powers as the world’s first scratch & sniff superhero, Mr. Smell-a-rific!