* Welcome to The Big Jewel, your only tenuous link to reality. But if you truly want to understand what it means to be linked in, ponder the words of our good friend Kent Woodyard very carefully...

My LinkedIn Networking Requests Require Some Customization

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TO: Tom (My current boss)

I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.

— Kent (the guy with the funny ties)

TO: Cheryl (My high school guidance counselor)

I’d like to add you to my professional network of people on LinkedIn who thought I’d be dead by now.

— Kent

TO: Susan (My old boss at JoAnn’s Fabrics)

I’d like to add you to my professional network of past employers on LinkedIn who were unaware that I was spending most of my time at work jousting with curtain rods and fitting myself for capes.

— Kent

TO: Sam Jones

I’d like to add you to my professional network of college graduates on LinkedIn whose future in advertising depends largely on whether or not I have courtside seats at The Garden this Saturday.

— Kent

TO: Britney Cooper

I’d like to add you to my professional network of emotionally stunted human resource professionals on LinkedIn who – coincidentally – were also the inspiration for my Facebook status yesterday afternoon when it read “Kent Woodyard thinks some people need to get over themselves.”

— Kent

TO: Stephen, David, Josh, and Adam

I’d like to add you to my professional network of former college roommates on LinkedIn who were supposed to open a liquor store/sushi bar/off-track betting facility with me but decided instead to get married or deported and – as a result – had to abandon their childhood dreams, thereby forcing me to do the same.

— Kent

TO: Kelly McFarland

I’d like to add you to my professional network of campus recruiters on LinkedIn who I’m sure are now regretting their decision to let a mild case of Tourettes and a few good-natured ethnic slurs come between The Walt Disney Company and a top-notch applicant for the marketing analyst position.

— Kent

TO: Michael, Gary, and Mark

I’d like to add you to my professional network of coworkers on LinkedIn whose inability to “take one for the team” and “loan me the company credit card” will likely result in an uncharitable portrayal in my professional memoirs.

— Kent

TO: Zack (my little brother)

I’d like to add you to my professional network of 8th graders who are on LinkedIn for no discernable reason.

— Kent

TO: Kevin

I’d like to add you to my professional network of Subway Sandwich Artists on LinkedIn whose commitment to plastic-glove hygiene and liberality with the banana peppers will not be forgotten next year when he graduates from his vocational technical institute and enters the real job market.

— Kent

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where baseball season never ends. Well, of course, it did end recently, and in fact the Red Sox didn't play a very prominent role this year. But don't take that tone with Ralph Gamelli!

A Red Sox Fan Presents: The Odd Couple

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SETTING

A high-rise apartment building

MAIN CHARACTERS

RED SOX FAN
YANKEES FAN

(RED SOX FAN enters the apartment.)

RSF: Yankees Fan! The ladies are waiting down in the lobby. Aren’t you ready yet?

(A voice responds from the bathroom, which is open.)

YF: Just about.

(RED SOX FAN walks over to find YANKEES FAN bent over the tub, drowning a litter of kittens. RED SOX FAN shakes his head with bemusement.)

RSF: You’re going to make us late. It wasn’t easy to get us this double date with the Pigeon sisters, you know.

(The last of the thrashing ceases. Satisfied, YANKEES FAN straightens up.)

YF: All set. Let’s go.

RSF: Not so fast. Your shirt’s wet. You better go change it.

(YANKEES FAN is annoyed, but complies. He looks at himself approvingly in his bedroom mirror, then steps over to the corner, where there’s a stack of cinderblocks. He hefts one, tosses it out the open window and walks out of the room. From far below come the sounds of shattering glass, shrieking tires and screams. RED SOX FAN is waiting anxiously at the apartment door.)

RSF: That’s the shirt you’re going to wear?

YF: What’s wrong with it?

(RED SOX FAN points at a faded, pinkish stain on the cuff.)

YF: No big deal. Just a little wine.

RSF: It’s blood. Last week at lunch you jabbed your salad fork into the waiter’s neck.

YF: Oh, yeah.

(YANKEES FAN rolls up both sleeves to the elbow.)

YF: Problem solved.

(RED SOX FAN shakes his head and they step out into the hallway.)

RSF: Just don’t embarrass me tonight.

YF: I was going to tell you the same thing.

(An OLD LADY and her young GRANDSON are moving toward them. RED SOX FAN nods politely and hugs the wall to give them room to pass. YANKEES FAN, however, trips the OLD LADY and tells the GRANDSON there’s no Santa Claus. RED SOX FAN rolls his eyes and presses the button for the elevator. They stand in the hall, waiting.)

YF: So who do the sisters like? Yanks or Sox?

RSF: I didn’t ask.

YF: Didn’t ask?

RSF: It didn’t seem important.

YF: Are you crazy?!

(RED SOX FAN puts his arm around YANKEES FAN’s shoulder and grins warmly.)

RSF: Sometimes I think so, buddy. Sometimes I think so.

(YANKEES FAN grumpily brushes off RED SOX FAN’s arm, pulls a pistol from out of nowhere, and plants the barrel against RED SOX FAN’s temple. The elevator door opens. RED SOX FAN steps inside while YANKEES FAN remains in the hall, still aiming his pistol. RED SOX FAN holds the door open for him.)

RSF: You coming?

(For a moment, YANKEES FAN continues to glare at him. Then a grin breaks out on his face and he puts away the gun.)

YF: I’m with you, buddy.

(YANKEES FAN takes out his cell phone, dials the Vatican and calls in a bomb threat, then steps in to join his best friend.)

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, a veritable gamer's paradise. This week, please welcome Daniel Friedman, whose first piece for us doesn't play by the rules.

Business School Prepared Me To Be The Final Boss of a Video Game

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Gentlemen,

It’s my sad duty to inform you of the recent accidental death of our friend and co-worker, the Hammer Knight. He was working in the Volcano Dungeon, and that kid with the Singing Sword showed up. Long story short, Hammer fell into some lava.

Let’s have a moment of silence for him.

Okay.

Now, I’m not looking to place any blame in this matter. Obviously, even though the Hammer Dash was Hammer Knight’s signature attack, maybe he shouldn’t have been doing that while he was on a small platform suspended precariously over lava.

Then again, maybe I shouldn’t have sent a guy whose primary attack was the Hammer Dash to defend the Volcano Dungeon. Maybe suspending platforms precariously over lava wasn’t really a good idea in the first place. That’s on me, and I’ll have to live with it.

Anyway, we’re sending some flowers to Hammer’s wife. Sign the card before you leave.

Now, I know that there has been some discussion about upgrades to our disintegrating bridges and catwalks. We’ve got the kind that dissolve just after the kid steps on them, and you guys want to install a new kind of bridge that will dissolve while he’s still standing on it.

I ran that one by the guys in accounting. Unfortunately, to pave the way for a disintegrating bridge upgrade, we’d have to run a full study on compatibility with our current dungeon systems, and we’d have to re-train all the staff to use the new bridges. With the retention bonuses we’re paying to management, we just don’t have the resources in the budget to do that this quarter.

Next on the agenda, I’m aware of some complaints about the recent memo instructing you to prepare maps of your dungeons for use by visiting upper-level managers and our outside consultants. I know you’re concerned those maps are too easy to find, and that our heroic little friend has been using them to bypass your obstacles.

Well, that’s a small-picture problem, and the senior folks are big-picture guys. So it’s your job to solve this. Management is very busy, and we don’t have time to muck around in a maze full of spike traps all afternoon. The maps stay in the dungeons.

On to new business. Everybody, this magical crystal mirror is of extreme importance. It is the only object that can expose my one weak-point. So as long as that little bastard with the Singing Sword doesn’t get his hands on it, I am unstoppable.

So you know what we have to do with it, right?

No. We can’t destroy it. It has too much sentimental value. It belonged to my grandmother. I know this is a brainstorming session, and I try to encourage thinking outside the box here, but I think I’m going to go ahead and have you flogged for suggesting that.

Guards? Could you seize him, please? Thanks a lot. Great job, guys.

Anyway, here’s the plan: I am going to lock the mirror in a secure vault, in the deepest room of a dungeon, and I am going to give the only key to that vault to Steel Scorpion. Do you know what to do with it, Steel?

No. No, you shouldn’t ready your fastest ship to carry that key across the ocean. If the key is across the ocean, how will anyone unlock the vault? Oh, you didn’t think of that, did you? Well, you’re lucky you’re good at swinging your steel stinger, because nobody is going to pay you for using that insect brain of yours. Or arachnid. Whatever.

Point is, you obviously want to take the key and hang onto it, while you stand in front of the vault. Yes. Right in front of the vault. That way, I won’t have to go find you if I want to look at myself in the magical crystal mirror that exposes my one weakness.

Now, I know your impenetrable metal plates can be plucked off your carapace with the grapple-cannon, so let’s put you and the key and the secure vault and my grandma’s mirror in the dungeon that has the bottomless pit that can only be traversed by grappling along the walls. That way, we get kind of a grapple theme going on. A little motif. Consistency is the hallmark of dungeon design.

Oh, and, Scorpion? Since you’re going to be down there anyway, why don’t you keep an eye on the grapple-cannon as well. Yeah, just find somewhere in the dungeon to stash it.

No, you can’t put the grapple-cannon in the vault with the mirror. Then how will anyone get past the bottomless pit?

What do you mean “exactly?”

No. If he shows up, just kill him. I mean, really. How hard can that possibly be?

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+ Welcome to The Big Jewel, your fervent Apple evangelist. This week our good friend Trevor Macomber gives a shout out to some lesser known recent products of the mighty Mac factory.

A Review Of Some Of The Less Heralded Apple Products Debuting During Steve Jobs’ Leave Of Absence

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iMack Truck
Apple’s largest — and therefore most useful — portable media player is designed for extreme audio/videophiles who may already own multiple iPods and yet always seem to need just a little bit more when it comes to storing their collection. With 3,000 cubic feet of cargo space (not including cab), the iMack Truck is capable of accommodating 8 billion songs, 13 billion photos, and nine thousand years of video on 31 petabytes of storage. (Not all at the same time, of course; that would just be ridiculous.) Though the initial response has been positive, some analysts worry about the iMack’s potential market share, as it is necessarily restricted to consumers with a Class A commercial driver’s license and HazMat certification.

iSing
Billed as the world’s first truly edible musical instrument (whistle pops and the short-lived trom-bonbon not withstanding), iSing is a remarkable cake frosting engineered to play a different musical note with each ambrosial bite. In a revolutionary application of fledgling nanotechnology, Apple scientists have succeeded in trapping tonal vibrations within the rigid molecular structure of sugar crystals. When freed from their crystalline confines by a musician’s discerning bite, the vibrations are released into the atmosphere, where they form that bit of aural poetry collectively known as “music.” Of course, given the inherent scale of nanotechnology, it is more or less impossible to actually play any recognizable songs with iSing, as even the most delicate nibble results in an explosion of hundreds of discordant notes and chords—a veritable comestible cacophony! On the plus side, given each melody’s relative minutia and our eardrums’ relative gigantism, it would take approximately one thousand people eating iSing-covered cake at the same time in an enclosed space to produce any audible sounds anyway. Still though, the world’s first edible musical instrument. Wow!

iAtollah
Although not expected to do particularly high volume in the infidel-laden West, Apple hopes that this nifty little gizmo will jump-start flagging sales in the Mesopotamian region, particularly in Iran, where the Apple brand has suffered greatly from an unpopular biblical connotation. While no one is quite sure what the iAtollah is, exactly, inside sources confirm that it should fit easily in the pocket of any thobe, abaya, salwar kameez, or Jordanian Jilab while maintaining the ability to issue a nonnegotiable fatwa against the idolatrous heathen of your choice at a moment’s notice.

iSod
Created by the short-lived Apple spin-off, CrabApple, iSod was intended to make yard work more appealing to the 12-and-under crowd by proving that green wasn’t the only color that a lawn could look good in. However, a worldwide recall implemented after independent quality control agents discovered a massive infestation of African termites living in the inaugural batch led to CrabApple’s rapid dissolution. Chalk one up for the anti-outsourcing argument.

iBelieveiCanFly
George Foreman, eat your reduced-fat heart out. There’s a new minority celebrity pitchman in town, and his name is Robert Sylvester Kelly. Although originally marketed as another genre-busting, demographic-blurring R. Kelly/Celine Dion collaboration in the form of an iMYourAngel JetPack, a last minute contract dispute and Dion’s subsequent dismissal from the project led to a hasty rechristening just days before the propulsion unit’s premiere. Despite setbacks, there is no doubt that the newly dubbed iBelieveiCanFly (or iBiCF, for short) will set a new standard in personal aviation, providing reliable, self-controlled flight for aspiring R&B singers and micturating sex tape stars alike. With a five point cross-suspension safety harness, dual turbo CO2 compressors, and adjustable electro-kinetic wings, iBiCF is sure to be a big hit with anyone who’s been feeling trapped in the closet, not to mention any nine-to-fivers looking to circumvent the bump n’ grind of the daily commute. Plus, with an iBiCF jetpack, leery Lotharios will never have to worry about sharing the same girl again, not when they’ve got their very own pocket rocket to blast her into orgasmic orbit. And since you don’t need a pilot’s license to turn the ignition on this one, the fiesta can begin as soon as your credit card is approved. (Then again, if you’re a gigolo making lots of dough, you might want to strongly consider paying cash in this transaction, as any paper trail is bound to be regretted once the warranty expires and all iBiCF titleholders are automatically charged with 14 counts of soliciting a minor for sexual intercourse.)

iBall
In a surprising attempt to rapidly generate enough capital to fund deployment of its new 3H network, Apple is now charging existing iPhone customers a monthly service fee for each eyeball in their head at the time of purchase. Despite initial industry skepticism, consumer complaints have so far been kept to a minimum thanks to generous program features such as unlimited night vision and dilation, free rollover blinking, and 20/20 hindsight on weekends and national holidays. Can you see me now?

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