Friday, March 6, 2015

We Can Save the Lives of All of the World's Rhinos by Being Huge Jackasses to People

My last Saturday in San Diego started out in the usual way, with a double training session. Afterwards, I went to lunch at a nearby taquería with my dōjōmates Cathé and Oya. They wanted some facetime with me, a last chance to see. Besides, we knew that where I was going, the Mexican food would be made from tomato paste and disappointment.

The conversation meandered, like how all good conversations do. Eventually, we somehow started to talk about the recent extinction of the Western Black Rhinoceros.

“Now they’re gone forever, just to make dick pills that don’t even work,” said Cathé.
“There’s nothing special about rhino horns!” said Oya. “It’s just keratin like hair or fingernails...”

*             *             *

One of the most valuable lessons that my father taught me when I was young, was the importance of planning crimes. My father wasn’t a criminal; he was far from it. “It’s a game; it keeps your mind sharp.” He usually played the crime game when he was driving -- for this reason, the rules also stipulate there can be no notes, and he had to rely on mental math. ("So there's no paper trail for the authorities to follow.") His schemes usually took on the façade of a bizarre theme restaurant, typically used as a front for activities to exploit a number of arcane accounting tricks, tax loopholes, and the US-Canada border -- those were the things he knew well. I discussed a few of these schemes with some of my lawyer friends, who agree that they would’ve worked. Sadly, many of these schemes were lost to history when he passed. Sadder still, was that he squandered most of his scheming time in the futile pursuit of creating a perpetual motion machine. Those flights of folly were primarily driven by his adamant refusal to accept the Law of Entropy, living the entirely of his life under the delirious assumption that undiscovered laws of thermodynamics laid waiting for him.

I usually play the crime game when I’m pooping at work. My schemes are usually more… overt and frequently require specialized apparatus. I take no notes, but I allow myself to use a no-frills calculator. Laugh, but I’ve managed to eliminate all of my credit card debt and take twenty years off of my student loan repayments, simply by optimizing my resources in this fashion.
Those things are insignificant. The real value of plotting crimes is that it makes you clever. It teaches you to spot opportunities, by seeing the connections between seemingly unrelated things.

*             *             *

I dropped my fork.

“We need to sell them hair,” I said.
“What?” said Oya.
“We go bribe a barber or salon owner into giving us all of the leftover hair at the end of the day, and then we grind it into dust. We put the dust into pills and sell it over the internet. We can grind hair faster than they can find rhinos, so we can flood the market with our fake shit, and drive the price for rhino horns so low that it quits making sense to steal them.”

It was simple, elegant and brilliant (it was also Mr. Big's scheme in Live and Let Die, more-or-less, but that's not important.)

“Can’t they tell?” asked Cathé.
“You just said it was just keratin. Horns and hair should give of the same emission spectra,” I said.
“Yeah, but like, what about the DNA?” said Cathé. “Someone could tell that it’s not from a rhino.”

I then had a flashback to the Purdue years, sitting with a group of friends in an Irish pub, when my now-a-veterinarian friend was talking about how low-end pet foods are just made from ground-up unwanted shelter pets, like in Soylent Green.

“DNA starts to break down at 95°C. We just need to bake the powdered hair in the oven for a bit.”
“But how can you grind hair into powder?”

In a flawless stream of consciousness, I designed a conceptual hair grinding rig, as shown in Figure 1.

FIG 1. Conceptual sketch for a economical hair-grinding apparatus.
“We could build this -- today -- from off-the-shelf components, for like, $200. $100 if we went to Harbor Freight, but then it’ll probably kill us, because that place is sketch.”
“How will you collect the dust?” said Oya.
“Get a disc sander with a built-in dust collector,” is said. “They’re a pretty standard thing.”
“But the dust collector won’t just pick up dust,” said Cathé. “It’ll also suck up little pieces of hair.”

This is a real problem, and comments like those are why I cherish these sorts of dialogues -- kinda like the Great Edgeless Brownie Conversation -- but that’s a story for another time…

“Multiple iterations,” I said. “We just run the hair through over and over until its dust.”
"I don't know..." said Cathé.
"This is Traditional Chinese Medicine we're talking about; quality assurance isn't a factor," I said, because it's true.

Then we all sat there and looked at each other, stunned in amazement. This plan should be able to work -- and that is why I am release it to the world, for all to use, leverage and exploit. See, this is the real reason why I don’t have tons of money -- I simply have no desire to own a business.

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