Things that make you go 'hmm'

A question I've been asked many times is, "How do you decide what you're going to write about in your column?" So far, I haven't come up with a good answer. All I can say is that it's often difficult for me to focus on a specific topic because modern culture has created a Leonid meteor shower of issues flying in all directions at high speed, and my intellect feels like a small planet passing through the ongoing barrage.

The main problem is that once a particular subject for inquiry occurs to me, it never goes away.

Some of them seem too trivial to pursue, others too strange.

But mostly they linger, unresolved, waiting to disrupt the creative process. Here are just a few examples:

1. If Disney's new California Adventure theme park is hit by rolling blackouts and the rides come to a halt for three hours, will patrons get refunds or will Disney officials claim that unexpected power outages are simply part of an authentic Golden State experience?

2. Is it possible that youth soccer in this country is being secretly funded by OPEC? Think of how much the oil cartel benefits from having millions of Americans driving their gas-guzzling SUVs to far-flung venues every weekend.

3. During the cold war, there were rumors that Spetznaz agents from the Soviet Union were living undercover all over the US in order to commit sabotage and create havoc if war broke out. Are those agents still here? Could they have been responsible for the presidential balloting problems in Florida?

4. If computer hackers are really carrying out mischief around the clock and can defeat any security system, why haven't they discovered and exposed the legendary secret bank accounts of Imelda Marcos?

5. When will the first dog be sent to the International Space Station? Will animal rights groups support or oppose the idea? (Note to NASA - it better be a short-haired breed or the air filtration system will be clogged beyond repair after two orbits.)

6. If ethanol becomes popular again as a way to fight the energy crisis, will ethanol made from StarLink corn cause occasional malfunctions in car engines?

7. As skyrocketing ticket and concession prices shift the demographics of major-league sports toward more-affluent citizens, wouldn't it make sense for the folks at De Beers to buy a baseball team? That way, fans could use the 7th inning stretch to buy hot dogs, cotton candy, and an assortment of fine jewelry.

8. Now that our security has been repeatedly compromised by Navy spy John Walker, CIA spy Aldrich Ames, and (alleged) FBI spy Robert Hanssen, the big question for me isn't what they gave away, but how much is left? And this, in fact, seems like an answerable query.

President Bush could simply go on national TV and reassure the country that we haven't been completely ripped off by displaying the type of container required to hold all of our remaining national secrets. I'm hopeful it would be a large dumpster. But I have a terrible fear the president might pop onscreen looking chagrined and holding a shoe box.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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