Homeless exiled from Chico

Gone will be the days of panhandling and people scrounging for recyclables if Chico city officials have their way.

No, I’m not talking about Chico State students. The city has enough fun with Labor Day, Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day.

It’s the homeless who have to worry.

The city’s grand plan began in earnest in 2003 with the removal of City Plaza trees supposedly infected with Dutch elm disease.

While linking this to the removal of an entire population might sound like a conspiracy theory, Chico State sociology Professor George Seudonimo said it’s not uncommon.

“You can’t just send out the storm troopers from the get-go,” Seudonimo said. “This is one of those cases where tact helps.”

Recently, the city has put its plans into full-gear by converting the City Plaza from a homeless haven to Hobo Hell.

To build this vision, city officials have doled out an undisclosed amount of money – presumed to be in the “assloads” range – to world-renowned hobologist Jean Frauduleux.

In a phone interview last week, Frauduleux explained that the beauty of his design wasn’t in the hideous extravagance but in the subtle details and the materials used.

“Vagrants enjoy the grass and trees, but they fear hideous and expensive cement structures,” he said in a snooty French accent. “It is their natural enemy in the way that the gazelle fears the lion and the tubby feline Garfield fears Mondays.”

The recently installed band shell will act as a microwave dish to amplify the hobo-repellent powers of the plaza, Frauduleux said. Also included in his plan are backward-parking spaces to confuse the homeless further as they watch a car drive by and then suddenly reverse in their direction.

A similar plan has been swiftly enacted at First and Main streets to deflect the population out of downtown via Broadway.

When asked why the city has decided to go to such extreme lengths to take out the homeless population, an unnamed city official said it was quite simple.

“These are not your stove-pipe-hat-wearing, bindlestiff-lugging, lovable hobos from the 1920s,” she said.

In the eyes of one student, the domicile-impaired population has been a drain on the Chico economy.

With the homeless constantly scrounging for change, piggy banks in town are at historic lows, said John Billigesel, a 35-year-old economics major living in his parents’ basement.

“Pennies are becoming harder and harder to find nowadays,” Billigesel said after pausing his game of “World of Warcraft.”

“Chico’s luck is suffering a minus-two, and its defense has been weakened enough from the homeless that it’s only a matter of time before the city is annihilated by a Zerg rush.”

While Billigesel may not have a life, he shares the same point being made by both Chico and University police.

The homeless have become an unnecessary distraction from the slightly more important issue of terrorism, said Chico State fear-mongerer Henry Small.

While police shake down hobos and rifle through their backpacks, terrorists could be sneaking into Chico Municipal Airport to smuggle banned items onto airplanes, Small said.

“All it takes is one terrorist with a tube of cherry Chap Stick, and it’s all over,” he said. “They would finally be able to fly without fear of dry, cracked lips.”

The city has promised to be resolute in fighting this war downtown before it spreads to more-affluent neighborhoods. So far, the Plaza Project appears to be the best option.

One tabled proposal was to set off a nuclear device in downtown to eradicate the population and most of the buildings within a few miles of the blast. The idea was set aside when Mayor Scott Gruendl said the $500 fine was a little steep, even with the promise of the fireworks it would provide.

http://www.theorion.com/2.694/homeless-exiled-from-chico-1.10385

Games heal wounds of incompetence

I spent my winter break trying to free the world from shadows by either swinging my mighty sword, launching the occasional bomb-arrow, or even transforming into a mighty wolf and leaping for the throats of my enemies.

No, I’m not writing this column from a maximum-security prison or while on the lam.

After a two-year wait, I finally got my hands on the new Legend of Zelda game, “Twilight Princess.” Now that I’ve beat it in time for the semester to begin, I’ve been handed an excuse for why I spent roughly 60 hours of my life drinking up every pixel and enjoying every note of the soundtrack.

Research from the University of Rochester found that video games help to satisfy people’s needs. They can give people a chance to escape from the harsh reality of life by themselves or with friends.

Before the e-mails calling me Capt. Obvious come pouring in, there’s one last important detail. This study, unlike so many others, actually says that this escape is a good thing.

Now, let’s apply that to my winter break.

Those days I spent trying to dispel the dark veil of Twilight over Hyrule could have just been to settle my journalistic urge to shed light on the truth. Those evenings of leading the Roman armies to annihilate the Aztecs in Civilization were really just to ease my nationalistic tendencies. Those morning rounds of “Mario Golf” in which I made a puking piranha plant drive the ball 300-plus yards were to – well, I have no clue. That one makes me seem like a freak.

The point is, video games can actually fill a void in people’s lives. The most frequently used word in the study to describe this void is “competent.”

The New Oxford English Dictionary defines competent as “acceptable or satisfactory, though not outstanding.” So if someone really sucked at golf, playing as a puking piranha plant might be good to overcome those tendencies. However, this doesn’t make video games an end-all solution for life.

From my brief stint as a philosophy minor, I learned about Aristotle’s Golden Mean. In a nutshell, the golden mean is living between the two extremes.

In this instance, it’s living somewhere in between saying, “Video games are the devil,” and p’wning noobs to raise your Horde warlock to level 60 and beyond. If you understood that last sentence, odds are you aren’t living on the Mean.

Somewhere in between, there’s a happy medium. It’s something like the other thing I did over break. I got my nephews hooked on “Mario Golf.” But what they didn’t know is they were getting a lesson in higher-level math.

While the puking piranha plant (whose name happens to be Petey Piranha – there’s a tongue twister for you) was fun to watch, they also had to factor in the heights of their shots, wind speed and the slope of the green.

Physics, algebra and geometry are all hidden in the pile of red and white vomit on the green. Just don’t step in it. It looks a little slippery.

http://www.theorion.com/2.694/games-heal-wounds-of-incompetence-1.9547

Pursuit of parking stalls students

Rational people would take $72 and put it toward food, textbooks or even a nice romantic evening on the town. Instead, I spent that for the right to fight for a parking space.

I’ve heard all about how hard it is to find parking even with a permit. It’s no surprise the university oversells parking permits. It’s a common practice. The question is, by how much? With the amount of time and effort I put into finding a space, it didn’t look like it would be a small number.

Thursday helped reinforce this belief. After getting into the parking structure, I came across a long train of cars. Rule of thumb: When there’s a line, it’s not worth the time. But before I could slide into reverse, I was no longer the caboose. The rational side of me said to turn around and check the other lots, but the stubborn idiot behind the wheel hoped to find a spot.

Ten minutes later, as the last spot at the Third and Orange streets lot was filled, I surrendered the last of my change to a parking meter.

Surely this must be the exception to the rule, you say. There’s no way it could possibly be that bad every day. The only way to figure this out would be through a totally unscientific and anonymous survey of students who just finished parking.

Here’s a funny thing about trying to do a survey after people park before class – you barely introduce yourself, and you learn so much more.

Before I could say, “Hi, I’m Kyle Buis from The Ori-,” I was verbally knocked down the stairs. All seven people I talked to can be summed up in one sentence.

“I’m late because I spent the last (10-30) minutes trying to find a spot.”

Sometimes though, actions speak louder than words. A silver Nissan circled the second floor of the structure twice and then stopped halfway down an aisle. Finally, he gave in and joined a chain of 17 cars that slowly slid around the top of the building and spiraled out to continue their futile search.

After seeing that many drivers leave disappointed, I made a few phone calls and learned there were about 1,200 parking spaces on campus. That number takes into account the 65 parking spaces that were sacrificed for the Wildcat Activity Center, which is coming – eventually.

An official with Student Financial Services said 1,801 permits were made available this semester, and there were even a couple that hadn’t been sold. For every parking space, one-and-a-half permits are sold.

While that number was much lower than the 2,000- to 3,000-permit estimates I heard in my student interviews, it’s still high. When a train of nearly 20 cars is circling the building and students are running late to class, something isn’t working.

Back in the 2004 Associated Students elections, 70 percent of students voted to approve a measure that would restrict the sale of parking permits to students living within a mile of campus.

A mile away from campus translates into a short walk or even a brisk bike ride to get to class. It’s a chance to get outside and enjoy the weather instead of suffering through the stop-and-go of the Great Parking Lot Hunt.

With that many students granting approval and the many benefits of their decision, there was no real reason not to enact this. Instead, the measure fell by the wayside because nobody wanted to create a system to verify addresses.

All it would take is making a list of students to set beside the cashier when the permits go on sale.

The only logical argument against this would be that other personal information would be at risk. If only local addresses and names are on the list, this system could work. Students are required to keep a local address on file to get mailings and important information from the university.

Instead, cars circle the parking lots, spewing pollution into the air, and students run late to class. All because somebody can’t print a list.

http://www.theorion.com/2.694/pursuit-of-parking-stalls-students-1.9479

Podcast aside your radio

I have officially given up listening to the radio.

Outside the occasional San Francisco Giants game on the radio, I have no reason or need to. The songs I want to listen to are all on my iPod, and now even some of the TV shows I’ve missed are waiting for me to download for free.

I’m not talking about LimeWire; I’m talking about podcasting.

Rather than being held hostage during my daily commute, I’m entertained for free while escaping the monotonous corporate broken record that is commercial radio.

Podcasting is a time-shifted medium. It can be listened to whenever and wherever the listener gets to it – even if it’s six months later.

Another way it’s separate from the bland mess that comes over the airwaves every day is the way it’s delivered. All it takes is a free program, such as iTunes or Doppler, and a click to subscribe to the feed. From there, new episodes are sent directly to your computer and eventually to an MP3 player, if you so choose.

I could go on about the wonders of podcasting, but here are a few listening recommendations to immerse you in the wonders of free media.

Never Not Funny

Comedians Jimmy Pardo and Mike Schmidt shoot the breeze with producer Matt Belknap for an hour each week with no sign of a script or a point. Stories like Schmidt’s helicopter surprise for his wife and Pardo’s tryst with 1980s pop star Tiffany are just a sample of what happens when three men let loose for an hour.

Chronicle Podcasts: Correct me if I’m Wrong

The Orion hears complaints about what goes in the paper from readers all the time, but nothing like what comes on the San Francisco Chronicle’s voicemail. The actual messages from readers cover everything from a cat-sitter killing conspiracy to why the United States should surrender to Russia so we aren’t nuked.

Mac OS Ken

The best news show for news about everything related to Apple and the iPod. A brilliant blend of news and sarcasm bring the latest rumors, products and legal disputes about the Mac-maker every weekday. It blows rival Inside Mac Radio out of the water.

Real Time with Bill Maher

You don’t have to subscribe to HBO to hear some of the most informed and opinionated debate on anywhere. The b.s. is swept away through intense and heated discussions, leaving the facts to be easily found by the audience. There are also numerous bonus podcasts that go beyond the weekly hour. Sadly, there is no video involved with any of them.

David Lawrence’s Personal Netcast

Six nights a week, radio host and tech guru David Lawrence gives 10 minutes and 46 seconds of essentially everything under the sun. Whether it’s about his latest forays into the short film industry, helping listeners with their computer issues or discussing the sad state of the Federal Communications Commission, Lawrence always makes it interesting.

MSNBC Countdown with Keith Olbermann

This is a strongly opinionated and short clip from Olbermann’s evening newscast, mostly taken from the fallout of the latest Bush administration blunder. But forget about politics for a moment and just listen to the eloquent delivery of his attacks. It’s a style and sophistication that isn’t heard often enough in today’s media mess.

http://www.theorion.com/2.694/podcast-aside-your-radio-1.8723

A crash course in religion’s wrongs

An old man walked to the top of a mountain and lugged a few rocks down the hill.

The son of a carpenter said a few controversial things and was hung on a cross. One man was so great that his picture can’t be shown in a newspaper without fear of an upheaval.

These are rational ways to look at from where most people in the world pull their religious teachings. I have nothing against any of the teachings, and I live a fine life respecting their existence.

It’s just the people I can’t deal with.

It’s one way or the other with religion today. There is no middle ground. But how did we get here?

It’s very similar to the descriptions I made of Moses, Jesus and Mohammed. Everything’s been oversimplified. You lose the gray area. The black becomes darker, and the white becomes brighter. You’re either with us or you’re against us.

Lost between the two poles is anything remotely related to the teachings from sacred texts. Instead of loving your neighbor as yourself, it’s, “I hate gay people.” Instead of the values of peace and toleration, it’s, “If you don’t agree, I’m taking you down with me.”

Religion is basically a coping mechanism. If you look at the common features of every religion, you’ll see an explanation for three things: the beginning, death and the end. All three of those are essentially unknowns, and they allow for some form of comfort.

People don’t want to hear they came from nothing and have no real significance, so there is a divine creator that nobody’s seen but definitely exists because his plan’s being lived out.

Death is something people have only one chance to experience, and because nobody ever writes back after dying, we have a fluffy resort in the sky. To keep people in line, we have a divine being who can remove us all from existence with his magnificent powers if we behave too badly.

This is all well and good, but it’s also a massive distraction from the important things in life – the people around us.

I’m not talking about this in the missionary sense of wandering to Africa or New Orleans to help those in need. It’s the woman down the hall you see every day. It’s the guy who you always walk past on the way to class. It’s the people whom for some reason you never find the time or opportunity to say hello to.

That’s exactly the kind of polarizing effect we’ve allowed for religion to have. Somewhere on the path to enlightenment and figuring out the world’s unknowns, we forgot about the world around us.

I’m not calling for the dissolving of all religions. Life is one massive non sequitur. There are many things that don’t follow our lines of reasoning. We need something to help us cope.

But it also has to be something that everyone can benefit from, something where you take a moment from the hustle and bustle of life to stop and say hello.

While you have your nose buried in a book that was written thousands of years ago – and revised many times since – in search of the meaning of life, you’re missing out on what it’s really all about.

http://www.theorion.com/2.694/a-crash-course-in-religion-s-wrongs-1.8809

Democrats finally step up

Don’t look now, but there’s something new dangling between the blue donkey’s legs.

After taking it on the chin since Republicans took power of Congress in 1994, the Democrats are taking charge, and it’s about time. One party can’t rule forever.

It started with a seemingly harmless nonbinding resolution that didn’t seem to be worth the paper it was written on. But it spoke out against the war, which was something that had been silenced in the halls of Congress.

It passed the House and was railroaded by Republicans in the Senate. But it sent a message and started a train of momentum that picked up during our spring break.

First was the fervor over the firing of eight U.S. attorneys. The White House said it was bad performance, but it looks like partisan politics because Karl Rove, President Bush’s chief of staff, has his fingers in the pie.

When the Senate Judiciary Committee decided it was time to subpoena people, including Rove, to testify about the firings, Bush made a weak counteroffer.

He said Rove and other officials would be more than willing to testify – only if they weren’t under oath and there were no transcripts.

Under those terms, a person could claim they leg-pressed 2,000 pounds, made sweet love to the wife of every woman in the world and shot Mr. Burns.

The old Democrats from a year or so ago would have waddled into a corner with their tails between their legs moaning, “Oh, woe is me.”

Instead of giving up, the Democrats are fighting back.

They essentially gave the finger to the president’s empty proposal and plowed ahead with their investigation.

A shocking revelation is coming out of all this. There are Republicans who are siding with Democrats on this issue. Sure, the president’s been polarizing and is becoming a lamer duck every day, but this is real progress toward – gasp – bipartisanship.

In reality, this sudden dose of chutzpah the left is showing is inspiring people to realize that one group can’t be in power forever. All you need to do is look at how far the GOP has fallen since the 1994 election.

The issues started with welfare reform and a commitment to families, and mutated into the beast that won the last presidential election while forcing the evils of gay marriage and abortionist baby-killers down our throats.

It’s amazing what happens when you mix religion and politics, then stick them in the back of the refrigerator for a good 12 years. It turns into a mess of corruption and a total bastardization of values.

After all, isn’t the GOP supposed to be the party for small government that stays out of our lives? To get elected, members sold out those values and decided to attack the bedrooms of Americans as well as women’s bodies.

This disease isn’t limited to one party. After 12 years, I’m sure the Democrats will leave us all screaming for a change.

Part of today’s change involves the action Congress is trying to take to curb global warming. Whether you believe in it, like Al Gore, or think it’s a big hoax, like Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., it’s still an important issue.

Instead of being put on the back burner and ignored, global warming is actually being discussed in a civil way.

When Inhofe tried to take control of a hearing on the issue, he was reminded by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., of what happens when one party has ruled for too long and the people have had enough.

She showed him her gavel and said, “Elections have consequences, so I make the rules.”

http://www.theorion.com/2.694/democrats-finally-step-up-1.8882

America’s values on life support after Captain sniped

On his way into a courthouse for his date with justice about a controversial law, a sniper’s bullet fell Captain America.

While early speculation had him dead at the scene, there is hope Captain America might be alive and recovering in hiding. The values he represented are the same way.

Captain America started more than 60 years ago as a young Steve Rogers who wanted to get into the army to fight Adolf Hitler’s Nazi forces. Rogers was so patriotic that his birthday was July 4. The artist is rejected because of his scrawny frame despite his eagerness to fight overseas.

However, before he leaves, he’s offered a chance to take part in a top-secret defense program called Operation: Rebirth. Through this, he would receive “Super Soldier” treatments orally and through injections while also being exposed to “Vita Rays.” Whether this was a forerunner to BALCO is a debate for another day.

The important thing is that he stood up for America. He knocked off the Nazis and confounded the communists. Outside his perfectly manipulated frame, he was an average person with no superpowers who rose to prominence from humble beginnings.

Captain America’s death has striking similarities to real events. He surrendered to police after defying the Superhero Registration Act. The controversial piece of legislation came after an accident during the filming of a reality TV show, where a bad guy blew up and took hundreds of lives with him.

Lawmakers and citizens in the Marvel world pushed hard to get a law passed in the aftermath, no matter what sacrifices had to be made.

This sounds an awful lot like the Patriot Act. It’s a well-intentioned piece of legislation. It was passed after a time of great sorrow. It places burdens on a specific group of the population in an unquestioning manner. Instead of superheroes being added to a list, the Patriot Act forces American citizens to forgo some of their civil liberties.

While it may make sense to trust those in power to protect you, this trust can be easily violated.

The Justice Department announced Friday that the FBI has been using the Patriot Act to illegally get citizens’ information. The bureau repeatedly sidestepped the processes in place and demanded that businesses turn over customer data.

All of this has the same feeling of paranoia the Cold War inspired. As if the shooting of Captain America isn’t ironic enough, it gets better because the Red Skull somehow has a hand in this.

The Red Skull was a Nazi- and Communist-themed villain – depending on when issues were published – who hated Captain America and everything he stood for. Skull has been presumed dead on numerous occasions only to come back again.

Now from beyond the grave, the Skull managed to possess a second shooter who followed the sniper’s bullet with three more to Captain America’s stomach.

If this is the end of Captain America, this is truly a sad irony that lives in reality today. The first bullet came as he tried to resolve the panic and fear that inspired the Superhero Registration Act. The other three came from that panic and fear overwhelming an otherwise innocent person.

We can only hope he pulls through his secret recovery. Then we might be able to find at least some small piece of hope for the nation we live in.

http://www.theorion.com/2.694/america-s-values-on-life-support-after-captain-sniped-1.8958

Columnist goes insane while waiting for rain

January passed without a drop of measurable rain in Chico. Residents and students are both puzzled as to the cause of this phenomenon.

It’s one of the lesser-known jobs of the opinion editor to probe the weather situation and right meteorological wrongs. This solemn and sacred task ranks up there with deciding who wins the Oscars and when NASA fakes the next moon landing.

The only thing standing in my way is the plague that’s haunted the campus this semester. Since I have yet to fall ill, I will not chance going out in public, and I’ll solve this mystery without wandering into the disease pit. I won’t even break a sweat, even though it’s been so sunny and warm in the afternoons.

Come to think of it, this might be global warming at work. The lack of rain could be the result of atmospheric destabilization caused by trapped ozone gases that cause heat to be locked in and melt the polar ice caps, thusly throwing the patterns of nature into a disastrous tailspin.

At least, that’s what those hippie freaks from the planet “Tree Hugger” want you to think. Instead, we need to focus on the real cause of this problem. It’s not the heat, but its source – the great bright Sol.

See, the problem with the idea of global warming is that it depends on something we can’t see, an almighty ozone layer. And supposedly, this imaginary layer is eroding and allowing more of the Sol’s light to pass through.

Pure rubbish.

That shameful propaganda merely dances around the problem and completely misses the heart. What we need is to look back before we look forward.

Thousands of years ago, a man either tilled the land for his crops or relied on the fat of beasts that fed on the vegetation. Either way you slice it, this was a good thing for Sol.

The bright oppressor had a consistent hand in everyday life. If he were pleased, he would make regular appearances and provide a balance of warmth to the land and the occasional refreshing shower to green the earth. If he was displeased, Sol would flip a coin and either butt in on everyday life with a scorching gaze, or disappear and let the floods remind everyone who the boss really was.

Now that man has produced more industry and products that take away some of Sol’s power, he’s angrier than are a group of bees at Winnie the Pooh. Last winter, his coin landed heads-up, and torrents of rain befuddled the region.

This winter, it’s tails, and the weather couldn’t be any drier. It was a subtle assault at first with frigid temperatures destroying citrus crops, but now Sol is out in full force, laughing at the misery of those he sees as purely below him.

To rid us of this menace, humanity needs to develop a system based purely on industry and strip away environmental regulations. We need a society that is independent of Sol. And one day, when he turns his back and leaves us in darkness, we sneak a nuke onto a rocket and BLAMMO! No more Sol.

Maybe these seemingly empty threats against our oppressive overlord will make him reconsider his actions. Or maybe I’m just going crazy from the air in the basement of Plumas Hall.

Either way, I need to get some new shoes. The heels are really worn and probably shouldn’t be touching concrete when I walk.

And if it rains this week, then it’s clearly Sol trying to get his childish revenge on me by making me walk in the mud and ruin my new shoes.

http://www.theorion.com/2.694/columnist-goes-insane-while-waiting-for-rain-1.9400

Wikipedia sucks students in with reliable information

The elephant population across the world tripled in the first half of 2006.

Well, not exactly.

But Stephen Colbert used this false fact to support his theory of Wikiality, or the belief that if enough people thought something was true, the facts couldn’t get in the way. To prove his theory, he sent his viewers to edit many entries on Wikipedia with special “facts” he provided.

Now, history students at Middlebury College in Vermont are being told not to cite Wikipedia in research papers.

Thusly, we have a new entry into the “They Actually Had to Say It” hall of fame.

Wikipedia is a valuable resource. It has information you couldn’t find anywhere else, and most of it is correct.

But slips in accuracy should make an average college student stop and think that maybe he shouldn’t include in his paper that bears are “godless killing machines” – another Colbert fact.

Even Wikipedia’s founder, Jimmy Wales, has said not to use it as a source.

“For God’s sake, you’re in college. Don’t cite the encyclopedia,” Wales said at a conference last year.

The site acts as an open-source encyclopedia. In technology, open-source refers to software whose source code has been released to developers to improve on.

For the less tech-savvy, think of someone building half of a jigsaw puzzle, getting stuck and then letting someone else work on it.

Wikipedia is a massive puzzle that was started in 2001 with a few pieces of knowledge and has since been added to by many users. The problem is that not everybody knows how to put the pieces in the proper way.

Chico State doesn’t have a policy condemning the use of Wikipedia as an academic source, nor should it. That decision is left to individual departments and professors who typically aren’t thrilled to see the site cited.

“Most professors I have worked with are not crazy about Wikipedia citations in bibliographies,” said Sarah Blakeslee, head of information and instruction at Meriam Library.

To wake freshmen up to this reality, Blakeslee uses Colbert’s elephant facts as example of the site’s biggest weakness.

“Anyone can edit anything on Wikipedia,” she said.

There are no publishers, professional editors or even experts to proofread the articles before changes are posted on the site, Blakeslee said.

But even with these potential downsides, the library’s Web site still lists Wikipedia under the encyclopedia section.

“I think it’s an incredible resource,” Blakeslee said.

The elastic nature of the site allows for even more topics and faster updates than books, academic journals or magazines. Pop culture and current events are covered much more thoroughly on Wikipedia than in most publications.

“Sometimes I’ll go on and read about somebody dying, and it’ll be updated on Wikipedia,” Blakeslee said. “There’s no other encyclopedia that could keep up to the minute like Wikipedia can.”

Because of its thoroughness and ability to be updated in real time, Wikipedia can act as a rudder to point students in the right direction to the information they’re trying to find, she said.

Outside of that, Blakeslee had one piece of advice for students about Wikipedia.

“If it’s not important, it’s a good source.”

http://www.theorion.com/2.694/wikipedia-sucks-students-in-with-reliable-information-1.9222

Love bytes on the Internet

Look at that mug. With a face like this, I’m sure you’ll be shocked to know Valentine’s Day hasn’t been the kindest holiday to me.

Even with all of my charm, grace and incredibly dashing looks, I found myself beginning February the same way I began so many months before. It’s been a long dry spell where nothing has worked. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so I tried the most desperate fix in the world.

I turned to the world of online dating.

While it may seem to be a dark day when we use something as cold and calculating as a computer to find a soul mate, the Internet has already taken over the rest of our lives. By being ahead of the curve, I’ll get rich from the book I’ll sell to the uninitiated.

Until then, I’m still a poor college student, so I put very little money into this offer. Also, I decided to rely on it for no more than two weeks. That means the “incredible savings” these Web sites throw at you when you subscribe for six months are out of the picture.

Yahoo Personals: 7-day free trial, $24.95 per month

Yahoo was first on my list for no other reason than I get at least three e-mails a week telling me to look there for love.

The detail of the search criteria was something I didn’t see much of at other sites. I could search for someone based on location, personality and even how often they go to church. Of all the sites I checked out, this one seemed to be the closest to fulfilling my vision of soulless machines controlling the human-mating process. In a related story, I’ll be using my Gmail account more from now on.

Match.com: 3-day free trial, $34.99 per month + $6.99 for Dr. Phil’s help

The company that’s managed to plaster Dr. Phil all over its ads offered a much better selection in terms of available women.

This was made even more promising because I got three e-mails in my Match.com inbox, but I couldn’t read them until I subscribed. Thankfully the three-day trial let me see who was looking for me.

This trial didn’t include the pre-recorded insights of Dr. Phil and his demands for me to set my love life straight. Something tells me I wasn’t missing much.

Maybe it was the menagerie of spam with offers of Amazonian women on Web cams, gay porn sites and even an invite to a Klan-approved singles site. Was my photo really that bad? On a lark though, I had to at least check out the last one.

Allwhitedating.com: Free

This Hitler-approved mode of dating ensures no mixing of racial bloodlines for the pure bigot inside you. While there are plenty of blondes and a few brunettes, there was nobody within the Chico area. After browsing the site, I decided it wasn’t worth the effort to make a profile.

To recap: I’ve run into a site that will someday enslave humanity, another that gives prolific amounts of spam and even one that still believes in Plessy v. Ferguson.

Even more depressing was the news I got from Yahoo Personals’ personality survey.

Before embarking on this journey, I thought I was picky. It turns out it’s not me that’s the problem. Apparently I’m so unique that 69 percent of women are not interested me right off the bat. Only four out of 100 dates I go on will be mutually good.

At least that’s what the numbers say. Thankfully, I can hold out blind hope that maybe numbers aren’t everything – that maybe I can defy the odds and find someone.

Let’s just hope the machines don’t begin the forced mating rituals for another 10 years or so.

http://www.theorion.com/2.694/love-bytes-on-the-internet-1.9314