|lol:> Upholding good in the world|
In times of trouble and when all looks bleak, people can rely upon superheroes to come to their rescue and save the day. Whether challenged by adversaries of this world or interlopers from outside the solar system, people marvel when the forces of good and their nemeses clash, and cheer when the villains are defeated and brought to justice. But lost behind the headlines and endorsement deals are the third- and fourth-rate superheroes who strive to do good, but typically are ineffective -- or worse, are a menace to themselves and their pets.
Take the case of the Pretty Good Four (PGF). Traveling in a convertible in the high mountains of the Chihuahuan desert, this team of four was transformed from the ordinary to third-rate superheroes when driving by a cell tower that was suddenly struck by lighting. Since then, they have banded together and devoted their outdated superpowers to at least hindering those who would spread malevolence in the world.
Today, as with many days, finds the team leader, Mr. Pretty Good, double-clicking on his Web browser's security icon and staring at the 1024-bit key size of his SSL session.
"It used to be that an eight-bit security key was pretty good," said Mr. Pretty Good, proudly showing his cipher ability, "but now with the passing of the PC Jr. and the advent of Grid computing, my cryptographic messages can be broken in a nanosecond. Even wind chimes can decipher my secret messages."
Mr. Pretty Good buried his face in his small hands. The second member of his team was quick -- a relative term -- to comfort him, but Mr. Pretty Good waved him away.
That second member, the Human Baud, goes at his own speed, which is typically 300/1200 bits per second. He can move, but not quickly enough to thwart the fiendish plans of most evildoers.
"Things started going downhill with the 28.8K modem," said the Human Baud, "then they picked up speed with 33.6K. With maximum download speeds capped at 53K in North America, I thought that I had a chance at catching up, but then came T1 lines."
Whether a slip or a public recognition of his own limitations, the third member of the team, The Flat File, chimed in with his story as well.
"I never got the hang of the hash," said The Flat File. "Using my sequential superpowers, I could find files pretty well, but 5000 or 10000 files on one file system? Do you really need to keep that e-mail attachment from 1995? Give me a break, people! Drag some files to the trash can, for goodness sake."
"It's deleting time!" The Flat File smashed his empty cup of latte.
The last member of the PGF, the Invisible Hagfish (the superhero formerly known as lovable little Rover), has only the superpower of hiding its own hideousness.
"I don't even know how it got into the car with us. I said, 'No pets!'" Mr. Pretty Good glared at the Human Baud.
Superhero nemeses are not immune to downsizing and obscurity as well.
Dr. Spatula, who only has a master's degree, is one such super bad guy who is not afraid to spread word of his mission in life. He despises the world and wishes nothing more than to bring a general sense of unease and a persistent rash to humankind.
Things were not always so. Dr. Spatula, whose real name is Stevo Spatulavious, was an avid cook and inventor. After being burned repeatedly when frying bacon and onion rings, he put his mechanical engineering degree to work, created four moving metal tentacles with spatulas on their ends, and strapped them around his chest. He found a way to cook and read at the same time and at a safe distance.
Perhaps it was an accident or perhaps someone was trying to cook a hardboiled egg, but one day there was a terrible microwave explosion. When the paramedics revived Stevo, he found that the tentacles were fused to his body and that the spatulas moved by his mental command. Though his appearance was laughable, the results of his rage bordered on a misdemeanor.
He regained his composure and took the moniker that the tabloids labeled him with, but to this day, Dr. Spatula plots revenge upon the world that could have invented such timesaving appliances, like the microwave bacon stand. When you look into his eyes and see his spatulas in uncoordinated colors flailing in the air, you can tell that he aspires for more than just petty criminal mischief.
"My true powers have never been tested. Many of the first-tier superheroes have their hands full with first-tier bad guys. They have no time for bottom-of-the-barrel baddies like me," laments Dr. Spatula. "Who am I stuck battling? The Amazing Roly-Poly Man? At least the Incredible Stinkbug-Man has some offensive capability and offers a challenge."
The Amazing Roly-Poly Man declined to be interviewed, but his publicist said that his official name is the "Amazing Sow Bug-Man" and that rolling up into a ball when someone touches him was a good way to ensure that "no one gets hurt."
Although they toil in anonymity, the world is a better place because of the efforts of these bottom-tier superheroes. We, who are championed by them, salute them.