Sunday, September 16, 2012

Criminal Acts

What comes in 7's
and is yellow, brown, & blue?
The answer is below...
  I’ve written before about my struggles with the snack food vending machine at work alternating my preferred Crunchy Cheetos and unwelcome Jalapeno Crunchy Cheetos in the same corridor. I thought I won the battle last year when the Jalapeno Cheetos disappeared but they made their reappearance in the spring and I resumed my boycott until last month when Crunchy Cheetos took sole possession of corridor A1 of the snack machine. I became a frequent customer and 2 weeks ago in what was wither a stroke of divine providence or demonically induced temptation the machine went haywire and left an extra bag of Crunchy Cheetos hanging precariously on the wire hook after dispensing my bag. I succumbed to the temptation of getting TWO bags of Crunchy Cheetos for my 85 cents, lifted the machine a couple of inches off the ground, and let gravity hand me my extra bag of Cheetos. As far as criminal acts go, it was a misdemeanor but wrong nonetheless. Even then, I could have returned the bag of Cheetos but I admit that I ate them right after the bag I rightfully paid for.

  Now that the vending machine had an empty slot in front of the row of Crunchy Cheetos, the remaining cheesy snacks sat in corridor A1 unsold until the vending machine man came. When I saw him leave, ‘Instant Karma’ by John Lennon was playing on my amazing iPod as I headed downstairs to satisfy my Cheetos fix only to find the vending machine man pulled a surprise maneuver and replaced all the Crunchy Cheetos with plain Lays potato chips. I like plain Lays potato chips just fine but not nearly as much as Cheetos and have compromised with the vending machine by getting Cheddar and Sour Cream Ruffles from corridor A3 in the vending machine. They’re still not Cheetos, but I do get to have my fingers covered with that orange cheese stuff so I don’t feel like a total loser.

There's a stranger in the house!

  Last week 2 new vending machines made their appearance to the break room at work. They were both candy dispensers. You put a quarter in the slot below your desired candy, turned the handle and candy would be dispensed through the slot below. There were Mike & Ikes, Red Hots, Plain M & M’s, Peanut M & M’s, Skittles, and Reese’s Pieces available for purchase.

Click the picture
to read the fine print...
  As I was considering whether or not to get some candy from this new contraption, I noticed a sign on the vending machine that said ‘The National Children’s Cancer Society’. I thought that maybe the proceeds from these machines were going to an organization that promotes cancer in children, but luckily the sign had plenty of fine print. The fine print said that the organization’s vending machine program raises $750,000 yearly to help children with cancer and that none of the money I put into the machine would go to the organization. The owner of the machine paid the organization a contracted amount to have the machine in place and would receive all the proceeds.

  I was convinced to try my luck and as I was ready to put my quarter in the slot for Peanut M & M’s (undoubtedly the most nutritious of the snacks), when Tony came to the break area. I told him the over/under of Peanut M & M’s was 12 and was he going to take the over or the under? Tony took the under, I placed my quarter in the slot, turned the handle, opened the dispenser door, and…

Upon further review...we have FOUR Peanut M & M's.

  OUT CAME 3 YELLOW PEANUT M & M’s. THREE!!! I congratulated Tony on being right with the under bet and then opened the dispenser door again to see if any Peanut M & M’s had gotten stuck. Out rolled a tiny brown Peanut M & M, giving me 4 Peanut M & M’s (which cost more than 6 cents each). I could not believe the stinginess of this machine and decided to try one more time. At Tony’s suggestion, I turned the handle slowly and when I opened the door, falling into the catch tray were THREE MORE PEANUT M & M’s. One yellow Peanut M & M, another tiny brown M & M, and a giant mutant blue M & M which I named Goliath. I peeked under the dispenser door and there were no laggard Peanut M & M’s so the final tally was 7 Peanut M & M’s for 50 cents.

  At the rate of 7 cents per Peanut M & M, this vending machine contains over a thousand dollars of Peanut M &M’s!! I suppose having to pay the National Children’s Cancer Society for the right to use their sign in the vending machine could make the owner have to cut corners to meet expenses, but if taking an extra bag of Crunchy Cheetos was a misdemeanor, paying 50 cents for 7 Peanut M & M’s was highway robbery!! I felt victimized as I munched down the 7 Peanut M & M's (including Goliath).

The answer to the question at the top of the post is 50 cents worth of Peanut M & M's. The Romney campaign claims that if we cut taxes on small business owners and freed them from the shackles of government regulation they would make more profits and be able to give out more Peanut M & M's for our hard-earned quarters, while the Obama campaign thinks the vending machine owners of America are making plenty of money off the backs of America's Peanut M & M consumers and should be made to pay their fair share.

  Speaking of crimes, I was the victim of theft this past week when I was robbed of the ability to sleep. The company I work for has an important interface with a government agency that I maintain as part of my responsibilities. Last Saturday, the agency underwent a firewall upgrade and for 5 days after that every document we sent to this agency was either acknowledged as being received but lost, received but not acknowledged, received and acknowledged as not accepted, or lost but acknowledged as being pending in the system. I spent all week trying to get answers from the agency while attempting to keep our systems running despite the balky interface and even when I was home, I would monitor the situation at home and woke up 2 or 3 times each night to check to see if there was some new emergency to attend to.

  I was so tired when I got to our Thursday Night chess club’s blitz tournament I could barely keep my eyes open. I’ve managed to win 3 of the last 4 tournaments and had even avenged my 2 losses in a row to Matt Kreigel 2 weeks ago with a nice victory over him last week. I haven’t been playing particularly well but was the beneficiary last week of some good fortune when Zack upset Joe from Waterloo and I was able to win a tournament without have to square off against someone I’ve beaten exactly once in 13 tournament meetings.

  In order to stay awake for the tournament, I took a shot of 5 Hour Energy for the second time in my life. I had no idea how it would work but the product was going to get a stern test when Matt Kreigel showed up a few minutes before the tournament was to start and he was joined by Dave the Barefoot Chess Player who was making his first Marshalltown appearance since March. I beat Chandler in the first round and my luck held out when Matt and Dave had to play each other in the second round while I got an easy game against Eric the new player. Dave beat Matt and we sat down to play for this week’s championship.

  I should have taken a bottle of 5 Hour Common Sense instead of 5 Hour Energy because I managed to unnecessarily lose a piece within the first 10 moves. I was tempted to resign but kept on playing and tried to pose the most problems I could a piece down against a superior player. I came close to winning my piece back on several occasions but Dave warded off all my threats and even won a couple of pawns to go along with his extra piece. We ended up in a position with my King pinned down in the corner and Dave trying to maneuver his bishop for the checkmate when I found a neat drawing resource to save the game by continually checking Dave’s king with my rook. If he ever took my rook, my king would have no moves and I would get a draw by stalemate. Once Dave saw what was happening, he gave a hearty laugh and we agreed to a draw game and a shared championship.

Left: I had just played Qe2 like a rookie to get out of the pin (Bd3 is just fine) and Dave played Qxe4, winning the piece I just protected! Right: 13 minutes later, I just check Dave over and over with my Rook on the g file. If he ever takes the rook I have no legal move with my king and get a draw by stalemate.

  Stealing a half point from Dave may not have been the crime of the century, but it was certainly the crime of the week.

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