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Dark Territory

You know that awesome Steven Seagal movie, Under Siege 2: Dark Territory?


The one about where there's a train in the mountains and you couldn't talk on the radio with anyone for a while because of the terrain blocking the radio waves and so they call that area the Dark Territory or something? You know the one I'm talking about? The one where there's terrorists (white guys, mind you, this is before 9/11 changed everything) who are going to blow up a nuke in Denver or something? And then Seagal's character is on the train with his hot daughter and he kicks the hell out of everybody and he does that weird double cross-chop thing? I don't want to spoil the ending, but he wins. Anyway, that's sort of where I am these days. Between a new job where if you use the internet, you DIE and the usual waiting game from Qwest when you move, the only way I can use Googles and internets is A: on one of these bad boys, which is every bit as shootmeinthefacefuckingkillme as you would imagine, or B: here at the library. I think the IT department is wondering why I haven't logged onto myspace or hotmail yet; EVERYONE is on one of the two sites here.


Anyhoo, pardon the silence around BHGP* until the new headquarters is up and running. It will feature absolutely nothing new, so don't you worry your pretty little head about anything positive coming out of this period of radio silence. In the meantime, just to tide you fuckers over, a story that has absolutely nothing to do with Iowa sports after the break.

(keep reading...)

*Yes, there are technically two other bloggers here; Hawkeye State will probably continue to post roughly twice a week, and as near as we can tell Jebus is sailing through Africa and looking for Col. Kurtz. Best of luck to him on that front.

The Department of Numbers

Recently, a resourceful Senator quietly inserted funding for a Department of Numbers in a farm funding bill. Numbers, the Senator reasoned, constituted the entirety of all budgets and statistics, and warranted a constant level of oversight in a changing world. With allocations for an annual operating budget of less than $750,000 a year, Americans scarcely noticed.

Those who did notice were excited, though, as they were now granted unprecedented access to the numerical system. Well, they could apply for changes, anyway; most were quickly denied by Department staff. Every now and then, though, a proposal made sense, and the President of Numbers was summoned.

"Didn't you say I had an appointment this morning?"


"And his appointment was..."

"Nine. It's only five past. You know the good ad types aren't great at punctuality. It's part of that give and take the creative people have."

The president grunts dismissively and goes back to his newspaper. His clerk resumes poring through incoming requests, a task which visibly displeases him.

"Mr. Logan, I'm telling you, all we have to do is abolish requesting personalized numbers, and 90% of our paperwork is taken care of," he tells his boss.

"You're preaching to the choir, young man. But then you'd be out of a job. Besides, the month of August was named for Augustus Caesar. Would you have denied us that part of culture as we know it?"

"Augustus was a king, not a shipping clerk in Yankton. Besides, renaming a "million" a "Ray" because, and I'm quoting here, "Ray loves me a million different ways"? So she wants to be able to say "He loves me a Ray ways?"? That doesn't make any sense. It's like these people aren't even thinking when they write these things."

"I know. But isn't it your job to weed these out so I don't have to hear about them?"



"Oh. Yeah."

9:08 a.m.: The door opens quickly, and a tall man in his mid-forties hurries in, clutching his briefcase and his hat. "So sorry, so sorry!" he announces as he bustles in. "The 8:40 was full! I hope I'm not too late!"

"Not at all. Have a seat."

The man obliges. He notices two other men by the side, gazing ahead sentry-like.

"Who are they?"

"In-house lawyers. They're from Houghton-Mifflin. Textbook industry likes to keep staff on site here."

"Why's that?"

"It makes the most sense for them to pay people to stay here and threaten us with a mountain of injunctions every time we get an itch to start screwing with numbers. Do you know how much it would cost them if we switched 4 and 5 in the list of numbers?"

"3.7 million. Just in reprinting and redistribution," one lawyer chimes in.

"There you go. So they spend pennies of that to make sure we don't go off the deep end."

"So--if you don't mind me asking, what do you actually do, then? It sounds like you try not to do anything. If that's the case, why not disband the whole place?"

"Well, for one, oversight and vigilance are their own tasks, even if there aren't always tangible results readily available. Sometimes a well-maintained status quo is its own benefit. But that's not to say we're totally passive around here. We're taking proposals--this hasn't really hit the papers yet, fyi--we're looking at moving away from the term 'Arabic numerals.' You know, the whole 9/11, War on Terror thing, it sends a strange message."

"Hmm. What are you thinking instead?"

"Freedom numbers has a nice ring to it. Ha! I'm just kidding. Were not going to do that, or Liberty numbers, or Patriot numbers, or anything. There's no way Europe would go along, and then it's the metric system all over again."

"Actually, Liberty numbers isn't bad," the clerk chimes in.

"Yeah, I was just thinking that. I hadn't actually heard it out loud. Liberty Numbers.  You mind drafting a letter to the USPS? We'd be obligated to run a stamp series for that, don't you think?"

"Absolutely. People would riot for the 1's."

Logan turns his attention back to his guest. "So that's some stuff we do. Tell us about you, Ted. What's your proposal again?"

"Well," Ted started, before pausing to clear his throat and adjust his seat. "I want to rename the number 7. Wait--I want to rebrand it."

"Yes, yes. We're anxious to hear about this plan of yours. Our--pardon the expression--number one question is always the same: Why?"

A textbook lawyer coughs conspicuously. "Oh, right, we get bugged about this all the time too," Logan says. "You're not changing what the number looks like, are you? Because that is more of a logistical nightmare than you can imagine. Everything, phones, desk calculators, keyboards, Little League scoreboards--"

"No no, don't worry," Ted reassured the men. Seven's already got the big diagonal right through the center, and diagonals are great for action. Plus it's tempting to add a loop or something, but then you're asking for trouble telling it apart from a nine. No, I like the way seven looks now. It's just the name."

"Okay, so back to the question--why the change?"

"Well, if you don't mind me saying so... Seven is outdated. Seven is boring. Seven is two syllables in a one syllable neighborhood."

"Good! Good. Tell me more."



"It's hip, it's active. It's upbeat. A touchdown isn't seven points anymore. It's a yaz! These guys need a yaz or it's game over! A field goal's no good!"

"So it has some application in sports. What about seventeen and seventy? I can tell you right now we're not teaching American kids to say 'Yazty.'"

"Yes, well, I thought you guys could help with that. I wanted to get your input as to whether or not we break up the string of 'teens.' It's not as if there's no precedent; eleven, twelve..."

"Well, I never really had a problem with 'seventeen,' either the age or the number. Tell you what, let's table that up until we get some cost analyses in front of--"

The clerk interrupts him. "There might be a problem. How are you wanting to spell this again?"

"Y-A-Z," the man answers."

"Yeah, that's taken."

"Come again?"

"Female birth control took it in 2007."



"Pharma took it? Fucking pharma?"

"You could do Raz. Or... or Baz."

Ted's face is crestfallen. "No, no, way too derivative. I didn't spend two hundred large on R&D to be ripping off some hormone pill."

"I understand. Well, Ted, I don't want to send you out of here empty-handed or anything; are you familiar with Magnetic Poetry, the words you can stick on your refrigerator?"

"Well, sure."

"I hope you don't mind if we send you out of here with the numerical version that we're developing. It's got all the, ahem, Liberty Numbers, and a few of the more common teens, twenties, and so on. We even put a '5 billion' in there."

"Sounds great, sir; I'm sure my kids will love it."

"That's what we're hoping for. Will you need any help on your way out?"

"No sir. Thanks for everything."


Ted leaves, dejected. The number seven lives to see another day. Logan sits in silence for a couple minutes before turning to his assistant.

"What was Carl Yastrzemski's number at Boston?"


"Huh. Does that count as ironic? I never really 'got' irony."

"Me neither."