Down here in the Bible Belt, Chinese New Year came and went without much notice. But this isn't just any Chinese year: it's the Year of the Dragon, which is said to bring propitious good luck to any new venture. And lately I've been feeling like I need all the help I can get.

Characteristically, I'd let Lunar New Year slip past. I had probably already doomed myself by committing an unlucky Lunar New Year action, such as wearing old clothes (which comprises my entire wardrobe), washing my hair (oh well, I was having a bad hair day already), or mentioning the number "four" (oops), a Chinese homonym for death? (I was quickly able to eliminate a few unlucky activities, like dropping my chopsticks--I'm a knife and fork guy~or sweeping the floor.)

Had I already blown my chance for good luck? I resolved to seek advice befitting the Year of the Dragon. Sleepily donning my WWF Smackdown terrycloth robe, I sit down at the computer and connect to the Javascript I Ching Reading Page site.

This is not just any old I Ching reading page, but one that employs the "immediacy of the coin tossing method with the reliability of the yarrow stalk method." Wow.

Flushed with new confidence, I click on the button to generate a hexagram. Thousands of permutations are possible, but only two patterns appear. I stab at another button. The I Ching senses I don't quite grasp the meaning of the lines, and explains that the hexagon is the image for "sung" or "conflict. "You are sincere, and are being obstructed," it says.

So far, this thing's right on target. Next up: "A cautious halt halfway brings good fortune. Going through to the end brings misfortune." This is definitely pointing back toward the bed.

But what will the boss say if I don't go to work? "One cannot engage in conflict," the oracle tells me. "One turns back and submits to fate, changes one's attitude and finds peace in perseverance." Now I'm really confused. Are we back to the Protestant work ethic, slavishly kowtowing to management, knuckling under to The Man?

I click again for further advice. "Even if by chance a leather belt is bestowed on one, by the end of morning, it will have been snatched away three times." Is having a leather belt "bestowed on one" a good thing or a bad thing? When my dad used to bestow one on me, it was a bad thing. And he did threaten to "snatch me baldheaded" a few times. Or does it point to a gift, like one of those fancy leather belts at the western-wear store with my name etched across the back and little horses and arrowheads inscribed around the big brass buckle that says "Rodeo or Die?"

The explanation of the second image was even more cryptic. "He who acts at the command of the highest remains without blame." But what is the highest, exactly? My boss, or my own conscience? "They bear and endure. This means good fortune for inferior people." Inferior? I don't think I like your attitude, Mr.... uh, exactly who am I dealing with here? "In order to escape the difficulties, he does not permit himself to be honored with revenue." A pay cut?

I carefully review the interpretations again, but they leave me as confused as Confucius in a mosh pit. Like all other spiritual texts, this one cries out for a specialist, a targumist, a priest of some kind to make the word plain. The bottom of the page offers an opportunity to "Re-consult the Oracle." But this could go on all day.

I decide to split the difference. Aligning my toaster according to the most advantageous Feng Shui principles, I pop in a bagel and surf on over to the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue site.

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