My Boeing–McDonnell Douglas–Insitu Survey

July 24, 2017

Dear Valued Customer,

Thank you for purchasing a Boeing–McDonnell Douglas–Insitu aircraft. Please take a few moments to fill out our survey. Answering these questions is not required, but the information will help us to develop new products that best meet your needs and desires—and those of your followers.

  1. Appellation: [ ] Mr.  [ ] Mrs.  [ ] Ms.  [ ] Miss  [ ] HRH  [ ] Col.
    [ ] Gen.  
    [ ] Comrade  [ ] Classified  [ ] Other (e.g., Your Beatitude)
  2. First Name (As it appears on your birth certificate, or as you wish to be remembered): …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
  3. Initial(s) [Limit of 3, please]: ………………………
  4. Last Name (For surnames with 2 or more hyphens, use a separate sheet of paper; set off aliases in quotation marks): …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
  5. Password (For your protection, clear text here is replaced with a mix of special characters and ASL—American Sign Language): …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
  6. Your Code Name: …………………………………………………………………………
  7. Latitude-Longitude-Altitude: …………….. – …………… – ….………….
  8. Which aircraft did you purchase?
    a. [ ] F-14 Tomcat
    b. [ ] F-15 Eagle
    c. [ ] F-16 Falcon
    d. [ ] F-117A Stealth
    e. [ ] ScanEagle Drone
    f.  [ ] Pre-owned DC-10 (Refurbished)
    g. [ ] Pre-owned DC-10 (Crashed and Refurbished)
    h. [ ] Mitsubishi F1M (Received in a trade)
    i.  [ ] Classified
  9. Date of purchase (Use Julian Date only, please): ________.____
  10. Serial No. (For manned aircraft, see tag on pilot-side doorsill or bomb bay door; for drones, see plate behind inertial stabilized turret system): …….………………………………………..…..….……
  11. How was this Boeing-McDonnell Douglas-Insitu product purchased?
    a. [ ] Received as a gift/humanitarian aid package
    b. [ ] Catalog showroom
    c. [ ] Independent arms broker
    d. [ ] Mail order
    e. [ ] Discount store
    f.  [ ] Government surplus
    g. [ ] Classified
  12. How did you became aware of the Boeing-McDonnell Douglas-Insitu product you have just purchased?
    a. [ ] Heard a loud noise and looked up
    b. [ ] Store window display
    c. [ ] Espionage
    d. [ ] Recommended by friend/relative/ally/Consumer Reports
    e. [ ] Was attacked by one
  13. Select 3 factors that most influenced your decision to purchase this product:
    a. [ ] Style/appearance
    b. [ ] Speed/maneuverability
    c. [ ] Price/value
    d. [ ] Conformed to local noise abatement laws
    e. [ ] Comfort/convenience
    f.  [ ] Kickback/bribe
    g. [ ] Recommended by the salesperson
    h. [ ] Backroom politics
    i.  [ ] Negative experience opposing one in combat
    j.  [ ] Gun held to my head
  14. To the best of your knowledge, check all locations where this Boeing-McDonnell Douglas-Insitu product will be used:
    a. [ ] North America
    b. [ ] Iran
    c. [ ] Central/South America
    d. [ ] Philadelphia
    e. [ ] Iran
    f.  [ ] Europe
    g. [ ] Middle East (not Iran)
    h. [ ] Iran
    i.  [ ] Africa
    j.  [ ] Asia/Far East
    k. [ ] Iran
    l.  [ ] Misc. Third World Countries (excluding Iran)
    m.[ ] Classified
    n. [ ] Iran
  15. Of the products listed, which ones do you currently own or intend to purchase in the near future?
    a. [ ] Flat-Screen TV
    b. [ ] iPod
    c. [ ] ICBM
    d. [ ] Death-Ray Satellite
    e. [ ] DVD Player
    f.  [ ] Air-to-Air Missiles
    g. [ ] Space Shuttle (Used, Refurbished)
    h. [ ] Space Shuttle (Reassembled)
    i.  [ ] Home Computer
    j.  [ ] Nuclear Weapon
    k. [ ] Recovered Alien Spacecraft
  16. Describe yourself and/or your organization. (Check all that apply)
    a. [ ] Communist/Socialist
    b. [ ] Terrorist
    c. [ ] Vegan
    d. [ ] Republican
    e. [ ] Quaker
    f.  [ ] Cosmic Muffin
    g. [ ] Democrat
    h. [ ] Dictatorship
    i.  [ ] Corrupt
    j.  [ ] Primitive/Tribal/Tea Party
  17. How did you pay for your Boeing-McDonnell Douglas-Insitu product?
    a. [ ] Under the table
    b. [ ] Money Order
    c. [ ] Payroll deduction
    d. [ ] Redeemed a coupon
    e. [ ] Deficit spending
    f.  [ ] Cash
    g. [ ] Suitcases of cocaine
    h. [ ] Oil revenues
    i.  [ ] Personal check
    j.  [ ] Prepaid debit card
    k. [ ] Ransom money
  18.  Your occupation:
    a. [ ] Homemaker
    b. [ ] Student
    c. [ ] Sales/Marketing
    d. [ ] Insurgent
    e. [ ] Clerical
    f.  [ ] Mercenary
    g. [ ] Tyrant
    h. [ ] Middle Management
    i.  [ ] Eccentric Billionaire
    j.  [ ] Defense Minister
    k. [ ] Retired
  19. Circle the highest level of education you have attained. (If completed by a proxy, please initial the selection.)
    a. [ ] Postgraduate
    b. [ ] Graduate
    c. [ ] Undergraduate
    d. [ ] High School/G.E.D.
    e. [ ] Elementary/Middle School
    f.  [ ] Other
  20. To help us better understand our customers’ lifestyles, please indicate the interests and activities in which you and your spouse/partner enjoy participating on a regular basis:
    a. [ ] Golf
    b. [ ] Boating/Sailing
    c. [ ] Sabotage
    d. [ ] Shaving the cat
    e. [ ] Walking/Running/Jogging
    f.  [ ] Propaganda/Disinformation
    g. [ ] Destabilization/Overthrow
    h. [ ] Defaulting on loans
    i.  [ ] Gardening
    j.  [ ] Arts and Crafts
    k. [ ] Black Marketeering/Smuggling
    l.  [ ] Collectibles
    m.[ ] Watching sports on TV
    n. [ ] Wine Tasting
    o. [ ] Interrogation/Torture
    p. [ ] Animal Adoptions
    q. [ ] Crushing Rebellions/Insurrections
    r.  [ ] Espionage/Reconnaissance
    s. [ ] Fashion Design
    t.  [ ] Border Disputes
    u. [ ] Mutually Assured Destruction
    v. [ ] Cooking

Thank you for participating in this survey. Your answers will be used in market studies that will help Boeing-McDonnell Douglas-Insitu serve you better in the future.

Your privacy is important to us. You have our assurance that your information will not be shared with other companies, governments, extremist groups, the FBI or their various international consortia.

As a bonus for responding to this survey, you will be registered to win a brand new Cuisinart Pressure Cooker in our Guns And Butter Sweepstakes!

Comments or suggestions about our aircraft? Please write to:

BOEING-MCDONNELL DOUGLAS-INSITU Corp.
Marketing Department
Military Aerospace Division
Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada


A Lesson From The Zen Master

February 17, 2017

A koan  (pronounced: /kuo-an/, Chinese; /mugwump/, French; /boring/, English) is a story, question, or statement etched in wet cement that is used in Zen-practice to test a student’s progress by provoking what Zen masters call the “great doubt” or “Big D.”

The word koan comes from the Japanese mispronounciation of an obscure Tibetan phrase, “Chap sang gawa yo rey?” – literally, “Where’s the bathroom?”

Koans and their study developed in China within the context of open questions posed by Emperor Yong-le (Ming Dynasty) to newly-weds who had forgotten to invite his majesty to the reception. In most instances, the emperor was appeased with a slice of wedding cake, his weight in silk pajamas, and a twirl around the rumpus room with the Missus.

Essence Of Enlightenment

The essence of enlightenment came to be identified with the interaction between masters and students, as opposed to an earlier practice, wherein a master spent hours yelling at his reflection in the mirror. Whatever insight this “Eureka!” moment might bring, its verification was always interpersonal – and very noisy. Thus, enlightenment came to be understood not so much as an insight, but as a way of acting to get out of washing the dishes after dinner.

This mutual inquiry into the meaning of the encounters between masters and students gave rise to a paradigm: one now looked at the enlightened activities of one’s lineal forebears not only to understand one’s own spiritual identity, but to also understand why one looked so much like the milkman.

Literary Practice

Koan practice developed from crafting snippets of encounter-dialogue with the literati into well-edited stories. This interaction often resulted with the “educated class” being relieved of their wallets. Eventually though, the methodology was amended to affect a more literary approach: teachers whose vehicles were stolen found their books left behind on the curb.

There were other dangers posed by encounter-dialogue. An early poetry competition devolved into a free-for-all when a contestant was unable to rhyme “solipsism.”

The style of writing Zen texts has evolved over the years, from the use of exclamation points at the beginning of a sentence – indicating a master’s anger over a student’s temerity to even ask a question – to the excessive use of smiley faces and other emoticons.

Koan Practice, or What’s My Mantra?

A koan may serve as a point of concentration during meditation or other activities, such as pole dancing or dating a pigeon. During koan practice a teacher may probe a student’s ken using “checking” questions to validate an experience, or by surprising the student with an obscene phone call.

Koan practice is particularly important among the Rinzai sect. These practitioners concentrate on qi breathing and its effect on the body’s center of gravity – as opposed to, say, looking for oncoming traffic while crossing the street.

A qualified koan teacher provides instruction in koan practice in private, though some are known to allow viewing through peepholes. In one particular case involving a student named Hu, his teacher wrote:

“Concentrate yourself into this jar of pitted olives, Hu. Make your whole body one pickled inquiry. Day and night, work intently at it. Do not attempt nihilistic or dualistic interpretations.”

To which, it is recorded, Hu replied, “Are you nuts?!”

Historical Antecedents of Koan Practice

Before the tradition of meditating on koans, the renowned teacher Huangbo Xi (720–723 A.D.) was recorded to have said, “Yours is a clear-cut case, but I will spare you the thirty lashes.” This came as a relief to his students, who had no idea what their diapered master was talking about.

By the Sung Dynasty, the term koan had evolved to describe a teacher who, after advising a student over a cup of tea at a local restaurant, refused to pick up the check. The noted philosopher and teacher Wan-Yu is said to have instructed his students to contemplate the phrase, “Crime doesn’t pay, and neither do I,” while he slipped out the back door.

Modern Western Understanding

Today, English-speaking, non-Zen practitioners use koans to refer to universal truisms, such as, “A synonym is a word you use when you can’t spell the original word you thought of,” or ethereal, often unanswerable questions like, “Does being open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, refer to Eastern or Pacific time?”

Although there may be traditional answers to many koans, these are only preserved as exemplary answers by masters who couldn’t come up with anything original themselves.

Appropriate answers to koans vary, since different teachers demand different answers. In most cases though, the master is not looking for a specific answer, but rather for evidence that the student can pay the tuition.


Chairman Mao — The Lost Interview

December 13, 2015

In late August of 1975, Mao Zedong, leader of China’s Cultural Revolution and fashion icon, sat down with this reporter at the Imperial Palace — one of his favorite restaurants — for an impromptu interview.

tony garcia:  I really appreciate this opportunity, sir.

Mao Zedong (through his interpreter): You should. So, what do you think of the suit?

tg:  Pardon me?

MZ: My suit. You like it? I designed it myself.

tg:  Oh, it’s very original.

MZ: How about the collar? I call it the Mao Collar.

tg:  Reminds me of a jacket from the sixties called the Nehru Jacket.

MZ: Don’t mention that running dog Nehru! Guy calls me up and reverses the charges. Says he’s dying to play mah-jongg. So I invite him over and what does he do? Steals my design and eats me out of house and home! I should have invited Gandi over; he eats a little popcorn and he’s full.

tg:  Um, to get back to the jacket, I thought it was created in India in the 1940s.

MZ: Hey, it’s has a mandarin collar, doesn’t it?

tg:  Yes…

MZ: So there!

tg:  Right. So how does one address you? As Chairman Mao? Mr. Chairman?

MZ: Either one is fine. Just don’t call me Bunkie.

tg:  Bunkie?

MZ: I told you not to call me that, you sycophantic toady who suckles at the teats of the bourgeoisie! Zhou EnLai used to call me that back in school. He came this close to getting his ass kicked.

tg:  I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t mean to offend you.

MZ: Yeah, yeah. So tell me, when was the last time you were in Belgium?

tg:  Last year.

MZ: I understand that in some towns there the women can become pregnant by staring at their shadows.

tg: That’s news to me.

MZ: Never happened, huh?

tg:  I don’t think so.

MZ: I knew it. Damn People Magazine.

tg:  Can we talk about your formative years.

MZ: Which ones were those?

tg:  At Peking University.

MZ: Okay, if you say so. It’s all a blur to me.

tg:  I understand in 1917 you moved to Beijing where you worked at the university library. And it was there that you were first introduced to the sociopolitical theory of Marxism.

MZ: Huh? Sorry, my mind was on lunch. You see the waiter around here anywhere?

tg:  No, I haven’t. Getting back to your introduction to Marxism…

MZ: Oh, good grief, not that nonsense.

tg:  Excuse me?

MZ: Come on — a communist society, free from central government, and based on voluntary associations between the workers? Please…

tg:  I’m stunned; I really am. I mean, you’re the architect of the Great Leap Forward, land reform, the Campaign to Suppress Counter-revolutionaries, the Chinese diaspora–

MZ: What was that last one?

tg:   The Chinese diaspora?

MZ: You’ve got a way with words, you know that?

tg:  Mr. Chairman, I’m asounded that you’re calling Marxist-communist ideology nonsense.

MZ: Hey, I’m 82; I get confused. So sue me already.

tg:  Fine. So how were you able to implement such sweeping reform throughout China?

MZ: One night I had this dream: China as the cultural and financial mecca of the world, with the U.S. as a bedroom community. So I initiated a series of open-air forums, brought my vision directly to our Great Mass of People, and they bought into it.

tg:  That’s amazing — winning over their hearts and minds.

MZ: Well, it didn’t hurt that I also had more guns than our Great Mass of People.

tg:  I’m sure it didn’t.

MZ: So tell me, you purveyor of creeping capitalism, what do you think of Barbra Streisand?

tg:  What?

MZ: Barbra Streisand. You know, “People… People who need people… ARE THE LUCKIEST–”

tg:  I got it; I got it.

MZ: Well I don’t get it. How could she have married that putz Elliott Gould? As an actor, the guy stinks.

tg:  He starred in MASH.

MZ: Well, stop the presses! Elliott Gould was in MASH!

tg:  Not one of your favorite movies, I take it.

MZ: You watch that movie you think the Korean War was all about golf and football, big nose.

tg:  I think Robert Altman, the director, might have been trying to illustrate the absurdity of war.

MZ: Absurdity? You want absurdity? I’ll give you absurdity: Peter Gunn, a great TV show and they take it off the air after 3 seasons. Meanwhile, Mr. Ed, a show about a talking horse — a talking horse! — runs for 8 years.

tg:  It was the kind of escapist entertainment popular back in the 50’s and 60’s.

MZ: Ah, bullshit!

tg:  Okay, let’s move on.

MZ: Hey, before we do, I gotta ask you a question. Is it true some Caucasians still tie themselves together to keep from being snatched away by eagles?

tg:  Not where I live.

MZ: Live in a restricted neighborhood, do you?

tg:  Something like that. Now, during China’s civil war, your forces defeated Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists who then retreated to Taiwan. Shortly thereafter, you founded the People’s Republic of China.

MZ: What are you — writing your history term paper? Get to the present, for chrissake!

tg:  Okay then, let’s talk about President Richard Nixon.

MZ: That guy had the worst Chinese accent I’ve ever heard. Bar none.

tg:  I didn’t know that. It’s my understanding that when Nixon told his National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger that he wanted to open relations with China, Kissinger told the National Security Council that Nixon had lost his mind, primarily because you yourself had referred to Nixon as a gangster.

MZ: No! I never called him a gangster! I was very sympathetic to Mr. Nixon’s travails. I called him a psychopathic thug. But you know how these things get lost in translation.

tg:  Of course. But it must have come as a shock to you when Mr. Nixon, this staunch anticommunist, sought to normalize relations between the two countries.

MZ: I just thought he needed a fourth for bridge. I heard the guy loved to play cards.

tg:  I see. As I understand it, the subject of detente was first broached at a fashion show in Warsaw, Poland where delegations from the U.S. and China were in attendance.

MZ: Now, that’s true. After the show the American ambassador came running after us shouting in Polish: “I’m from the American Embassy! I saw President Nixon in Washington! He wants to establish relations with China!”

tg:  And how did your people respond?

MZ: They ran.

tg:  They ran?

MZ: Who knew what the hell the guy was saying? We don’t speak Polish.

tg:  Oh. So what did your people do?

MZ: They grabbed this guy who was urinating on a building and asked him to translate. Luckily for them he happened to be the Polish Ambassador to China.

tg:  Okay, okay… In 1969 you declared that the Cultural Revolution was over.

MZ: Yeah. With the Beatles breaking up, I figured it was time.

tg:  Wait — are you serious?

MZ: You trying to start a fight?

tg:   No, it’s just that… The breakup of the Beatles?

MZ: Come on, you couldn’t see that coming? Yoko hanging out at the studio all the time like some nitwit groupie. You hear that album she put out — what was it called, Fly? Sounded like someone strangling a chicken. Speaking of which, here comes lunch! You don’t mind Bird’s Nest Soup, do you?

tg: No, not at all.

MZ: Good. I hope you don’t slurp your soup. I hate that sound. Hate it. Zhou Enlai used to slurp his soup. He came this close to getting his ass kicked.


Dealing with Status Quo Bias

November 22, 2013

Heuristics: The systematically biased, unconscious shortcuts people use to make intuitive decisions.

Look at figure 1 below.

Figure 1.

The clear sky gives the illusion that the buildings are closer than those obscured by the haze. Considering that we are in New York City and the objects in question are part of the Pheonix skyline, both photographs represent a distance greater than one can cover in a 10-minute jog.

Would You Trade?

Breaking from the status quo is, for most people, emotionally uncomfortable. Consider the following choices.

A famous experiment involved randomly giving students a gift consisting of either a coffee mug or a candy bar. When offered the chance to trade, few wanted to exchange for the alternative gift. Of course, none of the participants had been told that the coffee mug had had a tiny hole drilled into its base, or that the candy bar had been sitting in direct sunlight for 45 continuous days.

The power of this bias was quantified in a related experiment. Students at an Ivy League university were randomly chosen to receive coffee mugs – the candy having been withheld due to pending litigation over food poisoning. Those with mugs were asked to name the minimum price at which they would sell their mugs. Students at a neighboring community college, who were without mugs, were asked to name the maximum price they would be willing to pay to obtain the mugs. The median price – 6 months in jail and a $10,000 fine – was more than twice the median offer price, $1.59, plus shipping and handling. Clearly, ownership of the mugs increased their perceived value.

This bias may help explain why people who believe they can talk to wild animals are often eaten by them. Likewise, it might be a contributing factor explaining why companies choose to promote troublesome employees instead of simply shoving them off the nearest bridge.

Social Norms

Social norms tend to reinforce one’s preference for the status quo. For example, courts view a sin of commission (lying about your credentials to get the lead astrophysicist position at NASA) as more serious than a sin of omission (saying that the dog ate your credentials and still getting the job at NASA).

Another example: Government decision makers are often reluctant to adopt tax reform if there are “losers” as well as “gainers.” As most elected officials are themselves seen as losers, there is rarely an instance when gainers outnumber them, making tax reform nigh impossible.

For many organizations, lack of information, uncertainty, and a tendency to treat that gaping hole in the Titanic’s hull by calling a plumber, promote holding to the status quo. In the absence of an unequivocal case-changing course, why face the unpleasant prospect of change? Thus, many organizations continue to support under-performing executives due to either: a)  a lack of solid evidence that they’ve failed, or b) witnesses. Killing a capo di tutti capi may be a good business decision, but it is generally uncomfortable for the person involved.

Going Forward

We’ve explored some of the causes of status quo bias, now let us consider possible remedies. Here are some tips for countering status quo bias that can be immediately implemented:

  1. When you hear comments like “let’s wait and see” or “let’s meet next month to see how the project is going,” question whether you’re hearing status quo bias, or whether the conference leader has a job interview coming up.
  2. Think about what your objectives are, and whether they are best served by letting someone else fail for a change.
  3. Identify who might be disadvantaged by changing the status quo, and look for ways to eliminate them.
  4. Ask yourself whether you would choose the status quo alternative – a cheaper product made in Jaipur by preschoolers – if, in fact, you knew you could get away with it.
  5. Avoid overestimating the difficulty of switching from the status quo, unless it cuts into your lunch hour.
  6. Actively manage migration away from the status quo—communicate dissatisfaction with the status quo by holding your breath until you are blue in the face.
  7. Note that change becomes the status quo over time – unless it’s change for a $10 bill, in which case it becomes 2 fives, a fin and 5 singles, a roll of quarters, or the price of a gallon of regular gas.

Coming Soon To A Theater Near You!

February 25, 2011

The Return of Detective Frank Bullitt

Meet this season’s coolest police detective as Francisco Vargas Echevarra stars as Detective Lieutenant Frank “Bala” Bullitt in the 2011 sequel to the 1968 film, Bullitt, entitled “Bite the Bullitt!”

Bala Bullitt is the toughest cop on the tough upper east side of Guayaquil’s San Francisco district. Using his wits and a modified 1986 Yugo, Detective Lieutenant Bala is the city’s last line of defense against the naked brutality of Guayaquil’s criminal nudist colonies.

In this sequel, the owner of Isla del Fuego’s Broken Arms Inn, Hernando el Mentiroso, has been subpeonaed to testify in open court before a closed-door session of Mayor Jaime Honda’s City Council. The Honda Civic Improvement sub-committee has been investigating recent inroads by the Department of Public Works into Isla del Fuego’s lucrative binocular business. Bala Bullitt and his crack squad of action addicts have been assigned to protect Senor el Mentiroso until hearings start the coming Monday, or until the electric bill for City Hall is paid in full, whichever comes first.

Things turn ugly when underworld kingpin Diego “Nariz de la Aguja” Pendejo, known as The King of the Basement Apartment Rentals, puts out a contract on Senor el Mentiroso’s wife, only to learn that Senor el Mentiroso is a bachelor. Thus follows the gato y raton game of cat-and-mouse played out in the streets of San Francisco, Guayquil, including a thrilling remake of the original wild and woolly car chase, this time featuring Bala’s 1986 Yugo versus a 1963, 125 cc Yamaha Fun Scooter!

For sheer heart-pounding excitement and nonstop action, your entertainment dollar couldn’t travel farther if it had a passport! See “Bite the Bullitt!”


The Case Of The Missing Dough

January 10, 2009

I had been having this recurrent dream, the one where I’m in an accident and they’re rushing me to the hospital. On the way the only thing I can hear is the EMT saying, “I hope he’s wearing clean underwear.” Suddenly the phone rings, waking me before I can assure my would-be doctor that I had done my laundry. As I lean over to answer the phone, I can see the clock flashing ‘12:00’ — some day I’m going to set the time on that darn thing. “This better be important,” I growl into the phone, my brown fedora falling over my eyes. No answer. It takes me a couple of seconds to realize that I’m speaking into the wrong end of the handset. I flip myself around so that my feet are now at the headboard and growl into the handset again. This time I hear Rummy on the other end of the line.

“You sound a million miles away, T., like you were speaking into the wrong end of the phone,” Rummy cackles.

“Rummy? Geez… Last time I heard from you was in—“

“Lebanon, I know. Sorry to interrupt your beauty sleep,” he says mockingly. I was taken aback. How did he know I ‘d been using Oil Of Olay?

“You know what time it is, Rummy?” I ask gruffly.

“Yes.”

“Oh…” Who knew Rummy would break down and finally by a Timex? “You know, your people left me holding the bag back there in Beirut,” I reply, returning to my growl.

“Huh? What are you talking about? You had just gone grocery shopping. That box of Fruit Loops wasn’t going to walk itself back to the apartment.” Rummy was getting defensive.

“Alright, Rummy. It’s late… I think.” I yawn, then expectorate into a cuspidor, except I don’t own a cuspidor—it’s my shoe. “So get on with it, Rummy.”

“Alright. And stop calling me Rummy. I hate that.”

“Hey, I could turn over and go right back to sleep… Don.”

There was a moment of silence before Rummy – er, Don – spoke. When he did, all the vibrato was gone from his voice. “I’m holding a news conference tomorrow.”

“You always were looking for an excuse to get in front of the camera,” I reply, before belching into his ear.

“What was that—bourbon again?”

“No, Pepsi.” It really was Pepsi. The liquor store wouldn’t extend me any more credit until I paid them the 69 cents I owed.

“Pepsi and bourbon… some things never change,” muses Rummy.

My head was flooding with memories. “Yeah,” I sigh, “those are just a few of my favorite things.”

“Reminds me of when you and I were at that meeting in Langley. We went outside for break and you got that dog bite, then that bee sting—“

“Get to the point, Rummy!”

“I just wanted you to know,” Rummy continues, his tone quite somber now, “that I’m coming clean. I’m gonna tell them everything.”

I was shocked. “What? Everything?”

“Yep, the whole 2.3 trillion.”

I couldn’t believe it. No one would. For the longest time there had been rumors that the bean counters at the Pentagon somehow could not account for over $2 trillion dollars in spending. I remember something about The Washington Post calling the head of the Senate Appropriations Committee, asking if he knew anything about the missing dough. The guy’s aide said the senator was aware of it, but was indisposed at the moment—probably hiding under his desk. Then CBS News produced a whistleblower, a guy who had been looking for all that change behind every sofa cushion in the Pentagon until his bosses got wind and splurged at IKEA. And now, Rummy was going to go before the cameras later and spill his guts. “That’s one helluva rock you’re turning over, Rummy.”

“Don,” Rummy corrects me. “That’s why I called you first, T. I need you to help me find it.”

“The 2.3 trillion?” I ask.

“No, the office cat. Of course, the 2.3 trillion! If it were only a billion I’d have found it myself.” Rummy could be contrite when he wanted to.

“You offering me a job, Rum—er, Don?”

“You telling me you can’t use the work? Last time I looked, you were living out of a suitcase.” He was back to being snide stentorian Rummy.

“It’s a big suitcase,” I snap defensively. “American Tourister, with a matching garment bag.”

“Well, with what you’ll make from this case, you can buy yourself a shoulder bag to hold all your accessories.”

“How much?”

“Three cents on every dollar you turn up, T.”

I was incredulous, either that or it was gas. “Three cents? We’re not just talking defense contract largesse, here. We’re talking stuff even the Inspector General admits the Pentagon can’t track! I won’t touch it for less than a nickel,” I say, realizing I had him over a pork barrel.

“What are you—crazy? I can get two cents on the dollar down at Barney Franks.”

“So go, already. You’ll be hung up in committee for the next 6 months. C’mon, Rummy, you’re always looking to put your two cents in. Add it here.”

“Alright, already—a nickel. But I want results and I want ‘em fast!”

“No sweat,” I say, feeling smug. “What’s today?”

“Monday.”

“What—Labor Day already?”

“Labor Day was last Monday,” snaps Rummy, “Today’s the tenth. Why don’t you buy a calendar, for crying out loud?”

“Why, when I can get them free from that Chinese restaurant on Fifth and Union.”

“What—Wong Foo’s? They closed down three years ago!” snorts Rummy.

“Oh… I guess I should throw out that egg foo young I got in the ‘fridge.”

“You’re an idiot, T.!”

Rummy had hurt my feelings, but I was going to let it go. After all, I needed the dough. “Fine. I’ll spend today nosing around, see what I can find and get back to you later. Where are you gonna be tomorrow, in case I need you?”

“Let me check… Tomorrow’s the 11th—I’m having breakfast with a couple of guys on the Hill, probably go over to IHOP. Wanna come?”

“No thanks. That stuff just goes right through me.” I hang up the phone and lay back. Wow!—a nickel for every buck I find. The year may have started out badly, but now 2001 was shaping up to be my best year ever!


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