Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Weird (*ahem*, more weird) Work days

Vignette 1: adagio

Sometimes, work is like this. I had just finished listening to my theme song (yes, that's me on lead guitar, and, yes, I need a haircut), when the customer, Scott, asked our new contractor, Anthony, a time zone question: So, what's the time in Arizona now?

This, of course, is a trick question. Everybody knows this is a trick question, so I whipped off my head phones and said so. Scott chuckled at that: Heh! I knew you could hear me!

Of course, Arizona is on standard time (except the parts of Arizona in the Navajo nation which is now in daylight savings time). But Anthony already knew this, so he was good (being in charge of that part of the code). This lead to a prolonged, albeit genteel, gripe by Scott about the complicatedness of it all when it comes figuring out times across time zones. And how always having to be correct would wear anybody down.

Me: Except me: I am Iron Man [gentle reader: you did follow my theme song link, right?]
Scott grudgingly admitted, after the double take, that, yes, I was a perfectionist.

You could make a "Scott's Decree" that all time will now be in UTC, I continued, that way, the vampires would be confused and melt when they went out into the sunlight by accident.

That last bit gave Scott pause: Ya know, I never would have thought of that as a consequence.

Vignette 2: andante

It came on to rain, and unlike rains in the midatlantic area (Oh, should I rain, I don't know ... perhaps I'll just mist about for a while), rains in the Northeast rain with a driving purpose. Well, this rain today was more of the lento variety, so when Leo, my skydiving coworker, saw the rain, and me, inside, not dancing in it outside (yes, ask me about that later, for I am John the Fisherman), he made a remark about it.

Yes, well, this polite rain is all very transcendent in its serenity, I responded, but I prefer something a little more sturm und drang.

Leo: So you like the lightening?
Me: Nah, I'm a wind elemental, so I'm at home in a heavy wind.

The shocked look on Leo's face indicated his surprise.

Me: Ha! You weren't expecting that statement, were ya! I win.
Leo: Dougster, I've learnt not to expect anything from you, except the unexpected.

I let that non-sequitur pass.

Of course, Greg, the program manager wouldn't leave my antics alone (when will he learn?): But you could get hit by lightening!

This, of course, set me off: OOooooOoh! That would be so cool! I'd call myself ElectroMan.
Greg, chuckling, in a parting shot: Or, we would call you dead ...
Me: Oooooh! Extra crispy; love that chicken!

Vignette 3: adagio

It's now nighttime, and we, Greg, Leo, Anthony and I, were discussing code. Leo mentioned that one system, although working, was in need of optimization and was sloppy. Greg said, Well, all code is sloppy ... except yours Anthony.

Me: ... and mine; mine is good, too! I entreated.
Greg smiled at that. Yes, actually, Scott said your code was cute. I've never heard that said about code before.
We all chuckled at that, and I added: Huh! It's odd how the word never and I seem to be so closely associated. I don't know why that is, as I'm such a middle-of-the-road kind of guy.
Greg snorted: Yeah, you're just so, erhm, he stumbled for words, ordinary. as he ended weakly.
Me: Yeah, yeah, I'm like this non-entity ... like a Minnesotan: so bland you don't even notice I'm there.

Greg couldn't play at this game anymore. He burst out laughing as he headed out for supper.

Three Days with my Three Girls!

I met with my friend, Mike, on Friday, to save the world, and to discuss techniques for saving the world, when I found myself the proud owner of two Red Sox tickets.

The were actually Baltimore Orioles tickets, but the Red Sox have home-field advantage where ever they play, or, as the Boston radio announcer stated: "Welcome to Fenway Park at Camden Yards."

Hm. How to handle this (2 tickets, but 4 family members)? Fortunately, my dear wife had a plan: since Isabel was soon to be ill with a cold, I would take Elena Marie to the game. Heh! (Or, should I say, *whew*).

What followed ...

EM: Papa, are we there yet?
Me: Nope!
EM: grrrr!

EM: Papa?
Me: Yes?
EM: Tell me a story abooooooooooout ... the road runner?

... was a little girl flowering into a baseball fan born in the Red Sox Nation. So, thus beginneth her education.

At batting practice:

EM: Papa, look at that ball! as another humdinger flies out of the park.
Me: yes
EM: Papa, look at that ball! as another humdinger flies into the stands.
Me: yes
EM: Papa?
Me: yes?
EM: If I catch a ball, I will throw it back to them.
Me: Oh, no, sweetie, if you catch the ball, you can keep it.
EM, incredulously: Really?
Me: yes I say that often these days.
EM: Papa, I want you to catch me a ball!
Me, wait for it: yes

During the game:

EM: Papa, did the Red Sox get a home run?
Me: No, sweetie, they're fielding the ball, so they're pitching to the Orioles.
EM: Why?
Me: Well, sweetie, each team take turns fielding the ball and batting, at the top of the inning the Red Sox got to bat, and, since the Orioles is the home team, they get to bat at the bottom of the inning.
Lady, sitting next to us: Oh, how cute! Is she learning baseball?
Me: Yes, this is her first game.
Lady, turning to her caro spozo: Look, dear, that little girl is learning about baseball!
Caro spozo looks over and shrugs (these Bostonians are hard to impress).
EM, continuing her education: Papa? I want the Red Sox to win.

Please note, gentle reader, that this came with no prompting or indication of preference from me. If my daughter wishes to be a Yankees fan, that's her problembusiness. But it may have helped that 99.5% of the fans in our section were Red Sox fans ...

At the top of the 7th inning:

EM: Is it over yet?
Me: No, sweetie, there are two more innings.

At the bottom of the 7th inning:

EM: Is it over yet?
Me: No, sweetie, there are two more innings.

etc. Because of two stoppages of play, the first, in the third inning, which led to the Orioles starting pitcher being ejected from the game, it was well past Elena Marie's bed time, and that, with all the excitement for her throughout the day (it being her first baseball game, and all, where she shyly passed the pre-teen girl in front of us an "I like you" picture and where she kept waiting to catch an errant fly ball), the little one was all tuckered out.

Then the walk back to the car (EM: Why is everybody smoking?) and the exit to the highway (EM: Why are the cars not moving? ... this comment, in light of the fact that the Camden Yards has the most convenient parking lot in the world: it empties right onto 395!)

So, the next day, in gratitude, we composed a "thank you" card to our Tito Mike and Tita Malou, with Elena Marie providing the artwork.

Me: Is that you swinging a baseball bat?
EM: No, Papa, that's you.
Me: Oh.

Well, on Saturday, I took care of both girls, as their mother headed off to instruct her debutants in her latest creation -- since these young ladies and gentlemen are already accomplished dancers, they appreciate her choreography. Well, as the day progressed, Isabel's cold did, too. Which means that we had to go to A&J's for health-restoring soup, of course. Which she did not eat, of course.

So, on Sunday, after I had returned from the early morning Mass (which the priest gave a wonderful homily relating Wisdom ("What is this Wisdom today's first reading is talking about? Is it the wisdom of mathematics? Is it the wisdom of knowledge? What Wisdom this reading is talking about is God.") to our sacrifices described in the Gospel reading ("Jesus is not telling us to sever our ties with our brothers or sisters or our things. No, he is telling us that if any of these others lead us away from God, we must choose God and not these others, for God is worth more than all these others, and the wisdom he gives us as we read in the first reading is to choose Him."), I looked after the li'l Iz while Elena Marie and sweetie went to the morning Mass.

Well, what was to be done? Isabel and I shared some breakfast (Isabel: Would you like some ... Coffee? Isabel delights in making people coffee with our special coffee maker). And then she, as is her wont, handed me a series of books to read, the last one being Guess How Much I Love You. This last one she was not content to listen to the words and look at the pictures. No, after reading the first few pages, she left the table and acted out the words in pantomime.

Me, reading from the book: "I love you as high as I can reach." said Little Nutbrown Hare.
Isabel hops up from the table and reaches as high as she can.

So, I decided to join in this game.

Me, continuing to read: "I love you as high as I can reach," said Big Nutbrown Hare.
Then I leapt from the table and reached as high as I could.
Isabel, with wonder in her eyes, laughed out: That's high, Papa!

... which coincided nicely with what I was reading next: That is quite high, thought Little Nutbrown Hare. I wish I had arms like that.

The next part required a little bit of effort:

Then Little Nutbrown Hare had a good idea. He tumbled upside down and reached up the tree trunk with his feet.

"I love you all the way up to my toes!" he said.

"And I love you all the way up to your toes," said Big Nutbrown Hare, swinging him up over his head.

For this, I cradled Isabel in my arms and threw her above my head, inverted.

Isabel: That was scary! ... but it was fun.

There was more reading along the lines of hopping (which required that I do a bunny hop, which Isabel immediately imitated, with a near-close encounter with a coat rack and bookshelf ... my heart!) and kissing goodnight (which entailed me cradling her in our glide chair and giving her a good "night" kiss).

So, now comes the part in the blog where I outline the third day with my dear sweetheart, but this is the rawther disappointing part, because the third day was a hug for her at the beginning of the weekend and a goodbye kiss at its end. When people are lining up around the block, as for rock stars and my wife, it's hard to get in a "mo'" edge-wise.

And so it goes.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Once more with feeling: Ninjas Rule!

Okay, this link is too good to pass up:


... it's kind of like this one, but not:


I really must rethink my ban on television watching (22 years and counting), these were really edifying clips.

In a totally-related link (related by Chaos), it is found that Ninjas are mathematicians in this blog entry.

Makes perfect sense to me: after all, I'm a Ninja and mathmetician (don't quite remember my Erdos number right now (nor, embarrassingly, my Shusaku number, as I didn't even know this number existed until just now ... oh, the things one finds when one looks ...), so please don't ask), so, via generalization by sophistry, Every Ninja is a Mathmetician, Q.E.D. Do not read in that blog the comment posted by this weirdo geophf person, unless you're open to having your brain melt.

Bambi and Thumper

As you can see from other stories I've told, I'm quite the animal, um, activist. Well, coming home from a trip to northern NJ, our family saw a pair of deer, the mommie dear with a fawn, grazing in the field adjacent to our hotel. Elena Marie, like Curious George, was very curious, but also very good, wondered what deer eat. When I told her, oh, leaves and grass and stuff, she recommended I pick a leaf and feed it to the dear deer. Because, you know, grazing makes deer hungry. Huh?

So, armed with an obliging leaf EM picked for me, I started my trek across a possibly deer-tick-laden field to feed this family another leaf. I fully expected the deer to run off when they noticed me.

But no.

Did you know that deer hiss? When the mother finally noticed me, across a football field's worth of high grass (I guess my ninja skilz aren't all that well-polished ...), she snorted, as if expelling air forcefully through her nostrils (I guess I just did say "snorted", didn't I ...), and then stamped on the ground, as if to announce I was entering a danger zone. I, fearless as ever, continued my advance. This scene repeated twice, until my dear wife, having just finished unloading the car could now turn her attention to other things: What in the world are you doing out there, come back here right this instant and help me unpack. As I leapt to her bidding, both deer also leapt into the safety of the surrounding forest.

Diane: What were you doing with those deer?
Me: All I wanted to do was to pat them...
Diane: grrrr!

Later that night, around midnight, in fact, when I was walking back to the hotel from work (yes, it was Labor Day), a rabbit grazing in the field next to the walkway cotton-tailed its way across my path to disappear into the forest. I haven't yet found out if rabbits hiss when one approaches their young ... stay tuned.

So there you have it, folks, Bambi and Thumper, both in one day.

Visiting Home and Aaron's Stories

My dear wife set up a visit to Nana's in Connecticut over the Labor Day weekend for Elena Marie, Isabel and myself. It went as expected, which was: Great! and there were some delightful unexpected surprises (I put "unexpected surprises" in there for my dad: of course, surprises are unexpected, so "unexpected surprises" is a redundancy, or perhaps it's a tautology ... or maybe it's both ... but I digress).

Nana was very happy to see her great-grandchildren, and we had three Nana-cooked meals a day. Shockingly, I didn't gain weight over the weekend. But, then again, she didn't serve gnocchi, because she knows EM and li'l Iz don't like red sauce.

Me: Nana, any time you're cooking gnocchi, you call me: I'll drive here.
Nana: But your kids don't like the tomato sauce.
Me: That's perfect: more for me!

The children both cried themselves to sleep the first night (no surprises there; they missed their mama), but the second night, they dropped right off (EM: Move over, Papa, you're hogging the whole bed!) after the evening prayers and were all bouncy the next morning for another fun-filled day.

What's not to have fun with? With Autie Beki and Uncle Howland visiting with their children Peter (EM: Peter, come over here; come play with me!) and Sofiya (li'l Iz: Sofiya, Sofiya, are you having fun with me?) and bike rides (Pepé gave Isabel a bike with training wheels that should could ride by herself and crash only once, but even then, she hopped right back on and said: Look, Pepé, I'm going faster than Sofiya! but EM, pushed by her papa, wanted it to be known that she reached the school playground first! -- and, yes, as the person pushing and balancing her non-training-wheeled bike, my heart did not burst, thanks for asking).

Then, a special surprise for me and Nana was that Aaron, Trish and Michele visited! Aaron and I grew up inseparably as the cousins who were always getting into trouble (somehow, fires always seemed to spontaneously start near where I just happened to be standing ...), so I retold the story of how I kept asking for small cups of water from Nana: oh, um, just because ... Nana, herself, later came in and said:

Yes, Douglas was a good boy, but one time he kept asking me for cups of water. When I followed him, there was a fire in the middle of the room. 'Douglas!' I said, 'did you start this fire?'

Me, as a little boy: shakes head, looking surprised.

Aaron then told the story (he, in fact, had quite a few more rememberances and stories from our childhood than I did) of when Mike, our older, bigger, cousin one day knocked the wind out of Michele, Aaron's sister. Neither Aaron nor I nor both of us together could take on Mike in a (hypothetical) fight, so Aaron, Michele's big brother and protector, took Mike out in the backyard with one well-placed kick. Little did he know that all the uncles (and his father and grandfather) watched the event unfold from the living/sitting room. Uncle Roy, his father, jumped up from his chair and was going to give Aaron whatfor until Uncle Nick, Mike's father, stopped him: No, Roy, Mike was too rough with Michele and Aaron is defending her. You let him be. Saved by the Uncle St. Nick.

Uncle Nick died a couple of years ago, leaving behind 4 children (Kim, Joy, Carry and Mike) and one step-daughter (Laura) and his wife (Aunt Elaine). His death came suddenly, like it seems to for us Auclairs, and it still hurts to think about it, as I learnt more about his kindness, business acumen, love of classical music and parenting at his death than I knew from him in his life. He was a supremely self-confident (cock-sure) man, like we Auclairs are, but one not given to boasting. Nana, having already lost Pepé, took the loss of her eldest son very hard. He died and was buried in his shirt-sleeves: a simple, hard-working, man.

Aaron told another story about John, the third of our terrible trio, who as a young boy, after Pepé set up a mini golf-course in the back yard, wondered what a golf ball, propelled with appropriate force by a golf club, would do when hitting the back wall of the house. He found out (it penetrated the asbestos wall, leaving behind a golf-ball-sized hole), but, again, Uncle Larry (his father), Pepé and Aunt Roberta (his mother) were watching this all from the sitting room, where the golf ball happened to find itself. Pepé was furious, and decided to take disciplining his grandchild into his own hands, storming out of the house, rolling up his shirt to introduce John to the woodshed in a new way. Only Uncle Larry's and Aunt Roberta's intercessions stopped Pepé, but that fury left its mark on John, for he retold this story with awe to Aaron. We all remember Pepé as a man of few words and fewer emotions, so his anger would be a terrible storm, indeed.

Nana asked me if I played cards (she was angling, of course). So I had my own story to tell.

One day, Nana, Aunt Rolene and I were sitting down to a game of set-back and Aunt Rolene was instructing the masses (me, new to the game, at the card table, and her younger daughter, Cybel, on the phone with her friend in California) about the artistry and skill of the game. Cybel was having a hard time swallowing this, as she saw this entirely as a game of chance. Aunt Rolene would not hear of this heresy, so, to prove her point, invited Cybel, who had never played the game, to the table for a thorough thrashing. What happened, as Cybel stayed on the phone with her friend ("Yeah, I'm playing this silly card-game, it's all based on luck...") was that Cybel casually took every trick in the hands she played. You should have seen her mother's face as she stewed under a slow boil of listening to her daughter beat up her own mother's sacred card game as her daughter executed a perfect setback hand after hand. It's funny in retrospect ...

Bedtime. Mass time (which for EM, meant "Potty time" during the gospel reading ... grrrrr!). Lunch time. Then, drive home time.

EM: Papa, are we there yet?
Me: Nope!
EM: grrrrr!

... a few moments later ...

EM: Papa, are we there yet?
Me, having fun with the game; joyfully: Nope!
EM: grrrrr!

... a few moments later ...

EM: Papa, are we there yet?
Me, even more joyfully: Nope!
EM: grrrrr!
EM: Papa?
Me: Yes?
EM: Papa?
Me: Yes?
EM: Papa?
Me: Yes?

... in case you didn't know, Elena Marie needs to know that she has my attention ...

EM: Why do you keep saying: 'Nope!'?

Back at the hotel, the children did a full-on tackle of their waiting Mama.

As li'l Iz says: The end.

... and so it is.