Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Hobbit Movie

After the crazy success of the latest Transformers movie, I've decided Michael Bay should just make all movies from now on. For the good of the economy.
Towards that end, I've gone ahead and created the story board for Michael Bay's The Hobbit.
My contacts in LA are pretty limited. Actually, I just know Pam and Andrew, to be completely honest.
This is fine, though. Since 'The Hobbit' has been long overdue for an update anyway, recasting the dwarves as professional dancers just makes sense. Finding a picture of Andrew on a motorcycle sealed the deal.
I hope you enjoy it.
I also hope Pam and Andrew don't kill me.

Click for larger images:

Monday, June 29, 2009

Deadlines and Delays

As you have seen me nearly constantly complain, the expectations placed on geeks in the corporate environment are ever-changing.
I see it kind of like one of those awesome Japanese game shows.
There are requirements put on the contestants at the beginning of the show. Then, as the good TV progresses, the people that made those initial requirements ramp up the difficulty by adding restrictions and conflicting requirements to the original ones.
The whole time, some guy is screaming at you in a language you don't understand and the crowd in the studio audience seems almost frothy with hunger for your failure.
At the end, if you are lucky, you get dunked into pudding and are able to make your mortgage.
This weekend, the hard-and-fast, OMG-do-it deadline for the latest Microsoft patches arrived. The people who tested the patches and pronounced them "fine" on Thursday decided on Friday afternoon that they were possibly "not fine". There was no evidence that a problem had turned up, but just in case they went to upper-upper management and forced a delay. They wanted the weekend without reboots.
Upper-upper management granted the delay. Later today upper-upper management will wonder why vulnerabilities are still showing up on our scans. I promise, they will.
Since powerful government types will expect the patches to be in place by Thursday, we get to force them all into place Tuesday and Wednesday night.
We are required to be at our desks a certain amount of time every day. We are limited to working eight hours per day. The patches must and yet cannot be deployed immediately. After hours is acceptable once the restriction lifts, but after hours for who? We have users in Hawaii.
Drive this riding lawn mower over this giant log suspended over a pit filled with grape jelly within the next 45 seconds or we will release the bees.
What's that? We already released the bees?
While you drive across, gather up the bees and place them in this sock. Points will be deducted for lost or injured bees.
Hang on, let me finish dusting you with this pollen.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Last Night's Depressing News

June 25, 2009 we suffered the loss of a national treasure. I was notified by text message and noted absolutely no coverage in the press. I will honor him in the only way I can, with a poorly researched post on Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng.
Best known for his acting ability in 1996's break out hit Space Jam, Michael Jordan never found the widespread validation he so richly deserved from Hollywood. He was left to work out the rest of his career doing commercials.
Before that, he was signed to play minor league baseball in 1994. He had a brief professional baseball career for the Birmingham Barons, a Chicago White Sox farm team, batting .202 with 3 HR, 51 RBI, 30 SB, and 11 errors. He also appeared for the Scottsdale Scorpions in the 1994 Arizona Fall League.
Before that he worked for Nike. I can't recall specifically what he did but I assume he made shoes or something.
Since I couldn't find any mention of his death, let alone the cause, I am left to guess that he was slain by ninjas seeking to increase their honor or space aliens attempting to prevent their destruction as prophesied in Space Jam.
Either way, one doesn't go from being a simple cobbler to playing minor league baseball without racking up a ton of enemies.
Sadly, it was only a matter of time.
Let us remember Jordan as he would want us to remember him -- Pitching MCI and playing golf for the love of the game.
Goodnight, sweet prince. You will always be #32 in our hearts.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Our Governor

By now, most of us are aware that South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford was not, in fact, hiking earlier this week. Unless that's what the kids are calling it these days.
This type of event serves to remind us that we are all fallible. That even our highest elected officials are subject to the same flaws and insecurities that plague the unelected masses.
This man, who famously carried live pigs into the Senate chamber as a protest about pork-barrel spending makes mistakes like anyone can.
His wife, though, is nothing like my wife.
If she were, he might have run off to Argentina to meet his girlfriend, but he would never have returned.
A wiser man would have just stayed in South America. A quick Google search has taught me that Argentina is the world's third largest producer of sunflower seeds. The right thing to do, if Mark Sanford's wife is anything like mine, is to just start planting some sunflower seeds and lay low, take on an assumed name, and start over.
I know that all his stuff is still in the Governor's Mansion, but if Mrs. Sanford is anything like my wife there isn't much left that can't be bought back off Ebay (good luck getting that shipped to Argentina) or picked up off the Governor's Lawn (after the flames have been stamped out, of course).
According to the published story, Mrs. Sanford has been aware of this situation for five months.
After five months of wearing a cup and guarding my neck at every moment of every day, I'd be ready to flee the continent for good.
Some people have said that returning and admitting wrong-doing is the right thing to do, but in this case, the "right thing" flew out the window months ago at least.
There is nothing to be gained by returning to South Carolina. Trust me, I live here. The food isn't great, no good concerts ever come here and you can't buy booze after 7pm EST.
Argentina has a whole musical about it.
Flee, Mr. Sanford!
Harvest sunflower seeds and refer to yourself as "Marco".
He should be removed from office for exhibition of such poor planning if nothing else.
What kind of cover story is "taking a hike along the Appalachian Trail", anyway?
The best thing would be for him to see that as a self-fulfilling prophecy, throw some canned goods into a bandana on a stick and wander off into the woods.
History will tell us whether his return home was brave or stupid.
I just know if it was me, they'd finally put the question to rest when my remains were found several hundred years later and identified using dental records.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

New Look

You can see my new glasses in my profile picture.
I specifically requested something "more nerdy" than my last pair of small round frames.
I also wanted some with cable temples since the part that wraps around my ears keeps them from falling off when I look down. This is key, since I spend most of my waking time not paying attention.
I did not anticipate the reaction this change would cause in those around me.
Overall, it has been positive.
Sure, my daughter screamed in horror for fifteen minutes or so until Shana made her stop. You'd think she had found a spider.
My co-workers have been harder to quiet.
Though it has been a couple of weeks, gazes meeting my own are still bewildered. Everyone looks like they are trying to place my face with one they know.
To date, the reconciliation images pinned to the outside of my cubicle include Conan O'Brien (not the Conan I was going for, to be honest, but okay), Clark Kent, and Noah -- the cheerleader's dad from Heroes.
There is also a picture of Steve from Blue's Clues but that is left from the day I wore a striped shirt.
But the odd looks continue.
"You look like someone", is something that I hear (no joke) six times a day.
"Brad Pitt, I know, I get that a lot," is my stock response.
"No," their heads shake slowly as they continue to stare,"that's not it."
I think it is.
Or Arthur Curry, mild-mannered alter ego of Aquaman, Sovereign of the Seven Seas.
Functionally, the glasses keep my eyes from burning after hours of reading documentation on computer monitors.
Fashionably, they are a distraction, a mystery wrapped in an enigma smothered in delicious smoked cheddar which is stunning -- not in the sense that one refers to an attractive person as "stunning", but in the sense that people stop and stare at me like I'm a familiar stranger, unable to finish thoughts and incapable of not changing the subject to what celebrity I resemble.
I would expect that strapping something new to a face would cause the face to look different, but these glasses have been more like strapping a stun gun to my face and headbutting my way around the office.
Which is undeniably awesome.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


During the actual project, things worked differently.
When a server was out of compliance, I fixed it. I worked odd hours and flung patches and settings and generally did things.
Now that the project is complete, our day-to-day activities are being forced into the framework of a procedure. Previously, this procedure was something I'd heard about from time to time. Whispers in darkened hallways spoke of paper trails and action items. They sent shivers along my spine, but passed quickly, dispelled by coffee.
When the process of putting our work into these procedures began, I was content to watch in silence. I hoped (in hindsight, foolishly) that my job would be the same except that I would need to supply back-dated paperwork about everything anyone noticed.
I have been more wrong, but not often.
After the official kick-off meeting celebrating our successful conversion to procedure, I found out that I was in charge of it. This is the penance for not paying attention, internets. Responsibility.
And with great responsibility comes great pain.
I got notified that some of the servers in my care needed a software update.
According to process, I told an analyst that a patch was required. I picked a date for completion (at random, to be honest) and waited.
Someone found testers. Some of these testers were pissed that I requested a patch. They said it would break the application they built and that they wouldn't allow it.
I'm responsible, right?
These people use my servers for their crappy application which a patch might break.
According to process, now I have to fill out a ton of extra paperwork about how we will not be deploying the required update since it will break someone else's crappy application.
And my "bad" numbers go up and stay up.
I have to attend extra meetings and submit to auditor interviews and waste a ton of time justifying their issue since we have their software on my server.
That is the procedure.
The procedure is not telling the developer that he has until my randomly selected original completion date to get his bug-riddled, unsupportable, ancient and slow application off my servers or that I would enjoy breaking them with my patch, apparently.
Action items for today include wedging a line entry for "threats" into our procedure documentation.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Long Weekend

With my family away for the weekend for a Girl Scouts trip to Savannah, Georgia, I had a plan.
I was going to see Transformers 2.
You know what? It isn't out until Wednesday.
My desire to see robots punching each other was salved with a viewing of Terminator Salvation. The ointment is imperfect, and it's cooling relief temporary, but we work with what we've got.
When I got home, I decided another viewing of the first Transformers was in order. What if I'd forgotten a key plot point? To be honest, I wasn't sure there had been any.
This is far from a criticism. Movies where robots fight each other really only have a plot to move the action between scenes of robots fighting each other.
In case you don't feel like watching it again yourself, I'm publishing some helpful reminder emails from the Help Desk at the Department of Defense to catch us all back up:

June 15, 2006
From: Jburkley@dod.gov
To: all_users@sector7.dod.gov
Subject: Introduction

Hello everyone,

My name is Josh and I'm looking forward to working with you. I just transferred in so I'm sending this quick email to assure you that I'll be here to make your computing experience here a good one.
Also, please remember to leave your workstations powered on at night so that they can download approved software updates.




June 28, 2006
From: Jburkley@dod.gov
To: all_users@sector7.dod.gov
Subject: Information

Hey guys,

I'm getting a lot of questions about this so I figured I'd just drop an email.
If you are getting messages about your email box being full, please drag some old email to a USB flash drive to free up space.
Note: Moving messages to your 'Trash' folder doesn't free space unless you also empty the 'Trash' folder.




June 28, 2006
From: Jburkley@dod.gov
To: all_users@sector7.dod.gov
Subject: Retraction


I've just been informed that USB drives are a security risk. Do not bring them into this ultra-secure location.
I just assumed they were okay, since there is a pretty easy way to turn off USB ports on the computers and that hasn't been done. These decisions aren't made by me.
Anyway, consult the mail retention policy in your department handbook.




July 1, 2006
From: Jburkley@dod.gov
To: Human_Resources@sector7.dod.gov
Subject: Issue


A lot of users are requisitioning multiple cellphones, like two and three a week.
Getting all these set up in the system is taking up a lot of my time.
Can you draft a memo instructing everyone to please not hand their phones to Agent Simmons? He takes them apart in some weird way, maybe adds parts or something?
It's pretty messed up.
Could you maybe also ask him to quit doing that?




July 3, 2006
From: Jburkley@dod.gov
To: all_users@sector7.dod.gov
Subject: Equipment Control


I've got a lot going on right now, but there is no such thing as an audio computer virus.
If it is a regular virus, just run the virus scanner (you can find it near your system clock) and you should be all set.
The sound is not going to 'hack' anything. That is impossible.
However, DoD regulations forbid the storing of audio files on our equipment, so please remove all MP3s by the end of the week.




July 3, 2006
From: Jburkley@dod.gov
To: all_users@sector7.dod.gov
Subject: Concerns


The main entrance to the facility is closed at this time due to the incident. Please continue to submit your ticket requests through our remote access solution.




July 3, 2006
From: Jburkley@dod.gov
To: Human_Resources@sector7.dod.gov
Subject: Unpatched systems


I've been complaining since I started about the lack of software security updates on that big man-shaped computer downstairs.
If I get written up over this I'm going to be severely pissed.
The Secretary of Defense uses a Mac. I'm not patching that either.



Friday, June 19, 2009

Never Let HP "Fix" A Mac

Wednesday night I tried to change the settings on my HP Photo Printer. I needed to connect it through USB instead of over the network shared by a Windows machine.
The printer software refused my request.
In fact, it refused my request so hard that it demanded a re-install of itself.
No big deal, right?
Printer software gets swapped out all the time.
Except this printer software encountered an error. It was unable to install due to a permissions issue.
Now, there was no permissions issue. The software was running as me, and I'm allowed to do whatever.
Sometimes the permissions database gets a little stale though, and running a clean up and verification is something you just do on a Mac.
However, the HP software attempted to do it instead.
A few hours later, I found myself purchasing a new hard drive and downloading a beta copy of Snow Leopard, having lost my original install media in the move.
Yesterday afternoon I discovered that Snow Leopard doesn't fit on a DVD, so I went back out to buy an 8GB flash drive.
After booting from that, I was able to install an operating system on the new hard drive.
But wait!
Possibly due to the OS upgrade, my AT&T Aircard would only work without the software required to use it. So not at all, really.
By 8pm, I had committed to another 2 years of wireless internet in order to purchase a new AT&T aircard.
And then we got sandwiches, because that seemed the thing to do.
The important thing is this: I have my computer back.
Also, Snow Leopard (even in beta) is awesome. Unless you have an Option GT Ultra Express internet card, in which case it sucks a little until you replace that.
I missed you, internets.
I'm so happy to see you.
Let's never be apart again, okay?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I Thought I Had Enough Cash

Since Shana has been working later in the afternoons, a lot of things I never had to deal with have become my responsibility.
In most cases, that means that a lot of stuff isn't getting done at all, but I've managed to step up in a few key areas.
Gwynyth has made it home from summer camp every day.
The house has not burned down or suffered a plumbing catastrophe I had anything to do with (though the washing machine may be leaking - I'm honestly afraid to look).
And Tuesday we went to the farmer's market as Shana did every Tuesday last summer.
Gwynyth had been before and she had a list of things we needed.

1. Milk - One Gallon, "Happy Cow"
2. Gooey Butter Cake - As many pieces as she can stack on her arm

There were stalls everywhere with people selling all kinds of stuff, but Gwynyth stuck to the agenda.
Until we saw the blackberries. Man, those were huge. They were like mutated blackberry professional baseball players fused together into an unholy abomination of juicy awesomeness.
And Shana was out of peaches, which the market conveniently offered.
Someone was selling lemon pound cake. Gwynyth wasn't going to just let that go by.
Somewhere she had acquired a bag of some kind. This bag began to swell with baked goods.
By the time we arrived at the milk, I was scraping the last of my vending machine Diet Coke stash from the bottom of my pocket under the cellphones in order to finance it.
Amazingly, without knowing how she managed it, I ended up carrying the stuff to the car. I mean, one minute I was digging another quarter out of my pants and trying to not drop some peaches and a cellphone on the ground and the next I was carrying a gallon of milk, two bags of fruit, about eleven pounds of sugary baked goods and (I think) flavored honey to the car.
It all happened so fast.
I think next week I'm just giving Gwynyth forty bucks and the keys to the car.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Our Ongoing Efforts

We have only a few weeks left to fix every single issue the assessors turned up during the audit. If a single finding remains, our entire business model will collapse under a flood of "unable-to-do-business" paperwork and associated fines.
Jobs are on the line at the largest employer in the state. The price of failure for my friends and co-workers is the total ability to make their mortgage payments, which would snowball in our delicate financial environment into a plunging value for real estate across the region and a corresponding drop in the revenues generated for our schools, jeopardizing the educational future of a generation.
As you might expect, we are bored almost out of of minds.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sudden Life Choices

Gwynyth told me a little after 6pm yesterday that today is Carolina/Clemson day at camp. We own no paraphernalia associated with either school. Since that would instantly identify us as outsiders, we had no choice but to dash out and buy an appropriate shirt.
Shana still hadn't made it back from her full day of shooting kids at a high school, so Gwynyth and I were on our own to make this vital life choice.
One can embrace either school, or both (to an extent) but to choose neither is an impossibility in the charged atmosphere of Columbia, SC.
This is not a decision which can be reversed either. One cannot switch allegiances later. This is like a tongue piercing. You can remove the metal, but that hole is always going to potentially catch spaghetti.
Gwynyth gravitated to the standard t-shirt for the University of South Carolina. I refused.
"Why can't I have it?" she asked.
"It doesn't matter."
"Is there something wrong with it, Dad?"
"No. I just don't like it."
"It is the only one with pink letters."
"Doesn't matter."
"I like it, Dad. It's simple."
"No way."
"It just says 'Cocks'. What's wrong with that?"
At that very moment, Shana called to let me know she was leaving the high school.
She asked what we were doing, and I replied that I was trying to steer our daughter to Clemson.
Gwynyth wouldn't budge, though, even after I told her the Michael Stipe debate story I heard from Joe.
In the end, we settled on a maroon shirt (though the lady running the store corrected me by saying "garnet") with a palm tree and the phrase "Carolina Girl".
I'm not sure if that officially counts as picking a side in this great conflict. Whenever possible, I prefer to delay this kind of thing.
On the other hand, I did pick up a new shirt for Shana.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Summer '09

We've added a step to the morning routine to accommodate our varied summer schedules.
I've been taking Gwynyth to day care. I mean, "Summer Camp".
I drop her off before seven and head to work for a several hours, then pick her up in the afternoon.
She was hesitant at first, but grudgingly is accepting it.
"You guys said I always make friends and fine, I did, but that doesn't mean I like it." and "I made you a key ring and we had chicken nuggets for lunch -- But there was some boring stuff, too." and "The pancakes this morning were very small."
Brutal, isn't it? I'm a monster.
She is spending her days at a rollerskating rink. In other news, there are still rollerskating rinks.
So several hours a day, my daughter has wheels on her feet and no formal training.
Today is one of two "Water Days" a week, in which the children are given access to a Slip N' Slide, probably without a wheeled lead in but to be honest I didn't ask.
In short, if we can get through the summer without my leaving work to pick up my child at the Emergency Room, it will have been semi-miraculous.
I assume Fridays are archery and lawn darts day, followed by bleach-filled water gun fights.
When I freaked out a little yesterday Gwynyth tried to use reason on me. "Dad, how many wallets do you need? You don't even carry one because you are afraid it will make your butt look lumpy."
"All of them," I replied, "I need all of them."
Eventually, she will learn that trying to reason with me is futile, but until she does I will cherish these moments of childlike optimism.
We spend our afternoons in less-structured activity to wait for Shana to come home.
Gwynyth and I enjoy a good, solid, scheduled lack of structure. We thrive on it. She watches TV and I polish my wallet collection or look at kitten pictures on the internets.
And we wait.
And Shana works quite a bit longer during the day than I do, so we wait for a long time and try not to crowd her when she gets home, though our efforts are usually unsuccessful.
But this is our routine now.
We adapt. The ability to cope with boring afternoons and to dodge falling lawn darts are survival skills we have honed over the past two days to a razor point.
This afternoon I have to figure out how to get a bird feeder made from a pine cone and peanut butter into and out of my car without making a mess.
Life skills are what Summer Camp is for.

Monday, June 08, 2009

I Broke My Own Rule

I've done the unthinkable, internetz.
Gwynyth is fascinated by our family history. She asks questions about it quite often and there is only so much I've been able to tell her.
One story I have never told here has managed to make the list of her "introduction go-to" stories when she meets new people.
She loves the story of John Pass who, together with John Stow, founded the Liberty Bell.
It is a fabulously patriotic story on the surface and so the surface is about as far as Gwynyth goes on that one.
The truth is a little more fun for me.
Once upon a time, in 1751, the Philadelphia Assembly ordered a bell for the State House from the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London.
I assume it was an Amazon Deal of the Day kind of thing, and that the Whitechapel Bell Foundry has moved into making those doorbells you can program MP3s into, because this bell cracked as it was being hung up for the very first time. Since the returns policy at Whitechapel Bell Foundry included the possibility that the broken bell would be eaten by sea serpents and wind up at the bottom of the Atlantic due to witch activity, the Philadelphia Assembly asked Pass and Stow to fix it. And by "asked" I mean "paid", and that part is important.
Pass and Stow fixed the bell by melting it and then mixing copper into the metal at a rate which increased the strength of the bell quite a bit. Unfortunately, it also made the bell sound horrible.
To be fair, Pass and Stow were not bell-making guys. Why compete with the Whitechapel Bell Foundry monopoly at a time when people still couldn't get their horses shod through Ebay?
But they offered to try again at fixing the bell.
And by "offered" I mean "demanded money". And by "money" I mean as much as ten times the original quoted amount.
The Philadelphia Assembly paid it, Pass and Stow restored the original metal ratio and the bell didn't crack again until well after the warranty had expired.
This began, as I tell my daughter and management, our family's history of doing consulting work for the government. "If you aren't part of the solution, there is probably good money to be made in prolonging the problem" is actually on our family crest in Latin. Or at least the family crest I designed myself with crayons I borrowed from Gwynyth. And by "borrowed" I mean "rented", since she is her father's daughter.
Gwynyth is less interested in Nathaniel Holloway Pass, who was granted land in North Carolina by the King of England in the 1740's for helping put down an insurrection of the "savages" and later distinguished himself (alongside his son) fighting off our British overlords during the revolution kind of like Mel Gibson in "The Patriot" only he was probably less drunk (and since it was before World War II there was no Holocaust to deny yet).
Anyway, before all that the Pass family seems to have been all over Europe so tracing the history is hard even with Google.
What I did discover was that John Pass came to Philadelphia by way of Canada (since beavers don't need metal work done, I assume). Before that, he was in Ireland. And he studied metalwork from a master smith in Malta (and presumably the art of creative billing in Sicily).
The name Pass is an Americanization of either "Pasce" from the region in France or "Pace" from the Latin for "Peace".
Wait! I was going to explain about the rule I broke. Here it is:
I wanted to know more about Maltese history, since there is a connection there and either name origin could be placed there prior to the whole North Carolina/Canada/Ireland/England era.
So I picked up a book with neither dragons nor laser swords and a read it.
"The Religion" by Tim Willocks tells the story of the Siege of Malta in 1565. It is historical fiction, well outside my literary comfort zone.
The knights were holed up on a tiny island in the Mediterranean and attacked by thousands and thousands of Muslim troops for months. I find it not unbelievable that one of these knights (or a native of Malta) would choose the name "Peace" after that siege ended. There is still debate today about whether or not the knights had been "asking for it", I, for one, think the answer is "prolly".
The story was fascinating, but even as I read it knowing logically where my genetic heritage was likely to be, I found myself drawn to the Jewish characters in the story. There were several, since Jewish people participated on both sides of the conflict in every possible role from slave to Military Advisor.
Of course I would find this interesting personally, but I doubted there was any reason to suspect there to be a genetic connection there.
Until I found someone online who had been at this Pass family research far longer than me.
She put forth the theory in 2003 (which is about as recent as this theory gets) that the name Pass is an abbreviation used by Jewish settlers to disguise their heritage in England prior to 1657 (when Cromwell decided letting Jews back into England would be good for the economy). I doubt I could make that up.
So, the Pass family could have been in Malta as natives, pilgrims, slaves, or knights and they could have come there from any country in Europe, western Asia or north Africa or been there during the construction of the Ä gantija temples (the oldest stone structures on the planet) during the Neolithic age (c. 3600-2500 BCE).
It would have made things much easier for me (and Google) if ancient people had taken a break from dying of various plagues to just jot down some freaking records.
If they had, I'd be a lot farther into my research into what Darth Vader was doing between "Shadows of the Empire" and "Return of the Jedi".

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Sunday Post

I just went to Target.
We were out of cat food and diet cola. The absence of these things will cause yelling later, so I opted to avoid the trauma.
I wheeled the cart to the back of the store and wandered through the Star Wars toys.
Then I visited the cat food area and grabbed a crate of the mixed poultry formula preferred by those animals in our household who eat this canned junk.
I meandered through the DVD section looking for Buffy the Vampire Slayer Seasons 3-7. I was disappointed in the fact that they were, as always, nowhere to be found.
The Coke branded stuff was still priced at four for twelve dollars. There was only one Coke Zero, so I made up the rest in Cherry Coke Zero and Diet Coke.
On my way out, I noticed that the weird techno-awesome mechanical corkscrews were on sale, so I grabbed one and thrust it into the cart.
One aisle over, I noticed a bag of Doritos. Two flavors in one! Zesty Taco and Chipotle Ranch! Since Shana uses chips as a tranquilizer, I grabbed a bag of those, too.
In front of the register there was a cold bottle of Mountain Dew Game Fuel Horde Red (with a blast of Citrus Cherry Flavor). Into the cart it went as I pulled up to the register.
I watched my items move across the scanner from the corner of my eye as I navigated the menu on the card reader. As I was loading the last twelve pack into the cart, I noticed that my well-worn World of Warcraft weekend shirt was covered in cat fur from an earlier nap-related encounter with the cats. Three of them, to be specific.
The teenager held the receipt out to me and I took it.
I looked again at the assortment of items in the cart, the state of my shirt, the fact that my just-cut hair looks like I've been sleeping all day in the reflection off the drink cooler, and back to the Doritos, bottle opener, diet cola, and cat food in my cart. Items I had willingly purchased, all at once.
"My wife is very pretty," I told the check out girl, "And my daughter is reasonably well-adjusted. Most of the cats aren't even mine. The chips aren't even for me."
"Do you want this Mountain Dew Game Fuel right now, or should I put it in the bag?"
"I'll take it," I told her, beaten.

Friday, June 05, 2009

No Casual Jeans

The plastic cap protector thingy on the bottle of chocolate milk I got with my lunch said "PULL TAB AND TEAR AROUND" -- so I did.

Within five minutes I was out of breath, I had chocolate milk stains on my pants and I was banned from the cafeteria for life (which, to be honest, was not listed as a possibility in the employee handbook).

More importantly, it is our 11th wedding anniversary.
I still have trouble believing that, as does anyone who has ever met either Shana or myself, separately or at once.
We've come a long way from charging diapers on a Discover card to have enough money for food to our new home with kitchen amenities which force constant decisions on what take-out to get (My vote? Burritos.) and our army of poisonous spider minions.
We've geographically come a long way. A time zone, even.
And I still think I'm the luckiest guy in the world.
The traditional gift for the eleventh anniversary is Flan, with the contemporary one being Jell-O. At least according to the Food Network website which tracks these things.
I went a different direction, but I hope it works anyway.
Happy Anniversary, Shana!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Mercenary Work

The word came down this morning that overtime is no longer approved for my group. Since I tend to do a lot of my work under cover of darkness and in buildings devoid of witnesses (as any good tech ninja does), this means I have two choices:

1. Work enough to get my job done, meet all my obligations and cause no harm to befall my employer. My billing for time halts at 40 hours (generally sometime mid-morning on Thursday) but I continue working for the following two days and into the weekend.

2. Drop everything when my desktop clock has ticked off 40 hours and flee the building, leaving meetings in mid-babble, not responding to emails and shutting off my phone, and ignoring an ever-growing mound of things undone.

Anyone care to guess which option I have chosen?
Since option one is the revenue equivalent of swallowing a live spider for me, this should be just about the easiest pop quiz ever.
Nonetheless, please slip your answers under the door and I'll return your grades Thursday afternoon, from home.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

What We Don't Say

Shana left the house super early this morning to attend a shooting at a high school.
Well, she's doing senior portraits.
But there was a lot of talk during orientation about not referring to the photography session as a "shooting" and to not discuss "shooting kids at a high school", which I find an amazingly hysterical use of orientation time.
I've also not been helping since I tend to ask questions like,"So, did you shoot a bunch of kids in the face today?" and "Was the school shooting everything you always dreamed it would be?"
Walking into a school gymnasium with duffel bags filled with equipment and then shooting kids is the way Shana will be spending her day.
My job sucks.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Not To Spread Panic . . .

. . . But I've been doing a little research into this whole deadly-spiders-under-the-house thing.
The general response at work has been along the lines of "calm down" and "I really think booking a hotel room is a little overkill" and "I'm sure that you can't actually hear them through the floor" and "why are you breathing like that?", but seriously, there are many spiders living under my house right now.
The whole substructure of the Pr3++yG33kyTh1ng Worldwide Headquarters and Remote Poisonous Creature Research Center and Panic Distribution Hub is crawling with tiny spiders which skitter around looking for human flesh to melt.
My panic is entirely justified. If there is a level of panic which qualifies as "reasonable" then that is what I have.
It isn't like they don't bite people.
It isn't like the natural habitat in the display for the animal at the Houston Museum of Natural Science isn't a boot.
Had I not developed the habit from living in scorpion country of banging my soles together before putting on my shoes I would no doubt already be dead.
As horrible as these little beasts are, they are no Phoneutria nigriventer, to be sure, but if it were you can be certain I'd have already attempted to enact my "OMG KILL IT! KILL IT WITH FIRE!" plan.
That spider regularly travels in bunches of bananas (to which I am thankfully allergic), is released in the gardens at London hospitals and cannot be killed by freezing, boiling or microwaving. It is uncertain that they can be killed at all in fact and probably exist as immortal, remorseless killing machines who want to feed on our pre-digested internal workings. (citation needed)
Even the brown recluse is resistant to pesticide fogs as the spider tends to cling to the corners of the woodwork. Killing the prey insects and starving them out is also impossible, as recent studies show that the brown recluse prefers to dine on dead insects, anyway. Fogging creates a buffet for them, an act of kindness which is returned by the delivery of oozing wounds.
I'm not sure I'm that into the whole "infinite splendor of nature" business, to be honest. Normally, I'm a live-and-let-live kind of geek.
I should not be pricing gas cans, volume discounts on liquid soap, and bundles of rags on the internets, yet that is what I find myself doing with a good bit of my evenings lately.
The sink in the kitchen works splendidly, though.