23 July 2011

A Wish Your Heart Makes

I believe that one's dreams give us insight, if not into the dreamer's personality, then into what's happening in that person's life. I've noticed a correspondence between major situations in my life and the dreams at that time. It's like the subconscious is just venting or something.

So... Last night's dream...

I was a junior member of the ruling council of Earth in an age when we were out among the stars and had friends among many alien races. Think Babylon 5, but with me instead of someone famous.

I was in the council chamber, which actually looked like a file closet. There were filing cabinets everywhere, papers lying about, and a table with a paper cutter on it. It was difficult to move about, because the room was about the size of a closet and was filled with council members, most of whom were overweight.

The council had just finished composing a new bill, one which had four bullet points listed on a small piece of paper, perhaps four inches by six inches. The senior members had errands to run, so one of them handed me the bill and instructed me to sign (with my thumbprint) the bill into law. He then left, with the others, and I was there alone with the other junior member.

He turned to me and said, "Before you sign that..." I should have screamed and run, right then, but... "we could add a few more items to the list."

In the end, we created two more bullet points. I don't remember number 5, but number 6 granted "the stuffed grey bear named 'Oatmeal' full citizenship of Earth, equal to that of a human child."

I was just putting my thumbprint at the bottom of the paper when the seniorest council member came rushing back in, grabbed the paper from me, and shouted, "What have you done?!?!?"

At that point, I awoke, and reasoned that if I went back to sleep, the council would be there waiting to punish me, so I just got up for the day.

05 June 2011

From the Mouths of Yunguns

Each of us has questions in our childhood. It's a time of growth and learning. During early childhood, the brain experiences growth that it will never see again, and has capabilities that have been scientifically described as "supergenius".

Eventually, these capabilities level out for most people, but the events during early childhood have lasting effects. They're called "the formative years" for a reason. I am the person I am today largely because of what I experienced between the ages of two and ten.

So I was pondering the workings of my mind back then... I can remember the way I thought, and the kind of ideas I had, and, from my modern point of view, it's fascinating. Almost like looking into the mind of another person. I recalled some of the questions I asked as a child. And I also noticed that many of the questions I asked never received an answer.

So I compiled a list of questions I asked my mother as a child. She was my primary source of information, outside of books. Sure, I went to school, but the teachers contradicted each other a lot, and I didn't have any friends, so my mother was really important in my early learning, especially before I learned to read.

Here's a list of questions I was able to recall. Remember, for the sake of context, that these were all directed at my mother.

  1. Why aren't black people allowed to join our church?
  2. Why does Gramma say you hate me?
  3. Is Jesus' mommy's name "Mary Christmas"?
  4. Is "influenza" the opposite of "fluenza"? Is that why people with influenza can't talk so well, cuz they aren't fluenz in English anymore?
  5. If a neutron is a proton and an electron smushed together, why does a neutron weigh less than a proton and an electron put together?
  6. Teacher says we shouldn't be superstitious. Is it alright to be just regliar stitious?
  7. Of the bionic man has one bionic arm and one regliar arm, why can he bend a steel bar by holding it with both hands? Wouldn't that rip his regliar arm out of the socket?
  8. Is Grampa a bigfoot?
  9. Is it okay to pray to Santa Clause?
  10. What part of the cow is the bologna?
  11. Why do our Christmas stockings look just like Grampa's socks?
  12. If I die when I'm still a kid, in Heaven do I still have to go to bed at 8?
  13. Why do I have to eat my vegetables if I'm just gonna take a vitamin anyway?
  14. Why is the best kind of liver called "liver-worst"?
  15. What was school like before they invented electricity?
  16. My teacher says she needs to talk to you. What's a "sociopath"?
  17. If Jesus drank wine, why is it a sin to drink beer?
  18. Why are there no happy country songs?
  19. Are Fig Newtons® a vegetable?
  20. Why aren't grown-ups ticklish?
  21. What's the national bird of Turkey?
I thought that these questions might give some insight into the early development of my mind. I'm curious about the kinds of questions others asked their parents as children. I wonder if they asked the same things. Probably.

29 May 2011

Lyrical Wisdom

"I figured it out!" The shout traveled the breadth of my home and shook its very foundation.

My daughter, who was in my office trying to solve Sudoku puzzles with breakfast cereal as markers (to add an extra challenge, I ate all the green clovers while she wasn't looking), came out sounding excited. "What?!?"

"Well, 'hokey' means 'fake' or 'fraudulent'..."


"And 'pokey' is slang for 'prison' or 'jail cell'..."

"I don't like where this is head..."

"So you can stick your right foot in. And put your right foot out. Any time you want, because the cell doors don't really lock."

"There's something wrong with..."

"You put your right foot in, and you shake it all about. It's a hokey pokey, so you can turn yourself about and walk right out of there."


"But... That's what it's all about!"

I might not have gotten through to her this time, but at least that song is now stuck in her head. I think of it as "hands-on parenting".

28 May 2011


So, I have this scar.

It seems that after three years of doctors telling me that my pain, nausea and bleeding out both ends was all in my head, I found a doctor who was able to explain that the reason that my navel had become an outy is that I have a hernia. He referred me to a surgeon who was able to repair the hernia will little pain and discomfort.

For him. Little pain and discomfort for him. It hurt me like very little else ever has. But that's to be expected.

Anyway, the hernia, after three years, reached from below my abdomen proper to my sternum. I had thirty-five staples.

Thirty five staples! How hard-core am I?

Anyway, ignoring the interesting stories about the day of the surgery, or getting lost at The Women's Hospital, or why I think that staples in human skin were actually meant as a joke but someone got carried away... The result is that I have a huge scar.

I'm not one of those women who can wear a bikini. In fact, the last time I laid out on the beach, some people from Greenpeace tried to help me back into the water. So I don't mind the scar, really. No one is likely to see it, unless I want to show them, and I'm not the type to go around with her belly exposed.

Or am I?

I was thinking... if I can just lose a little weight... say, 150 pounds or so... then I can start wearing skimpy clothes. I was thinking... and that's where the fun started.

I told my daughter... "I can wear something that bares my midriff, like Whistler's daughter, Whistler, in Blade III."

She responded with, "But your old."

"No, listen... I can dress just like she did. And when people ask about my scar..."


"... I can say that I got the scar fighting vampires."

"But you're o... wait, what?"

"Vampires. I got the scar from vampires."

"No, you didn't."

"They won't know that."

"But I do."

"Are you going to tell them?"

"Wha.... No!"

"Then they won't know."

"But... there's no such thing as vampires."

"Ah ha! See... the scar. That's my proof."


"If I got the scar fighting vampires, then that's proof that vampires are real. That's how they'll know that I got the scar fighting vampires."

"But... No! You didn't!"

"Uh huh. See the scar?"

As my stepfather used to say (when I was paying my own way through college), you buy them books, send them to school... and they eat the covers off of the books.

She's a work in progress.


It occurs to me that when I was traveling in Asia and I was unemployed, instead of filling out the "Employment" section of the customs forms with "Photographer", I should have put "Vampire Hunter". And I probably would have gotten away with it, too.

26 April 2011

New Trishus

I'm inclined, upon reading this label, to wonder whether Americans can truly eat healthily without just heading straight to the produce section of the grocery store and not go anywhere else until checkout time.

Today I purchased some soups and soup-like items. I saw a children's classic - SpaghettiOs®! And who doesn't love those little pasta rings in yummy tomato and cheese sauce with or without meat balls?

But I was shopping on a budget. So I bought a can of the cheap alternative: Kroger's® brand Speghetti Rings in tomato sauce with Meatballs®. After eating lunch this evening, I glanced at the label.

Then, I did a double-take. Now, I wasn't expecting good nutrition, here, but I at least expected something that wouldn't kill a child after two helpings. Hilights are here:

Calories: 230
Sodium: 1010mg
Sugars: 7g

And the clincher - Servings per container: 2.

Two! That means, that if, like just about anyone else, you eat a single can (it's a single-serving-sized can, not one of those jumbo things), then you can expect to double the values above.

I know my diet isn't the best, but really, that sodium level should be illegal for anything intended to be taken as food. Two grams of salt in one meal... I had to double-check the label to see if it wasn't being sold as a nutritional supplement to replace lost electrolytes or something.

Dad, if you're reading this... If you eat a can of these, for your own safety, don't have any crackers with them. Not without letting the rest of us say "Goodbye" first.

And it wasn't even half as good as Campbell's SpaghettiOs.

10 April 2011

Big Brother/Pharmacy

So, I was registering with the Walgreens website for the purpose of streamlining prescription refills... believe me, no one wants me missing my prescription...

I filled out the normal stuff. Name, address, that sort of thing. Or rather, I put in the information I want them to think, so as to protect my privacy.

OKAY... I had my computer input that for me, because I didn't feel up to typing.

So, anyway, I filled that out. Then, it said it wanted to verify my identity. I was expecting it to send me an e-mail with a link for me to reply to. Lots of sites do that. But instead it asked me a series of questions.

  • Which street, if any, was your listed residence before the one where you currently live?
Simple enough... I've filled prescriptions at Walgreens before. They have me on record for both addresses.
  • Which model of vehicle is currently registered at your current address?
No probl.... waitaminute! My car is on the list. How did they know that?
  • What is the year of manufacture of your Suzuki Sidekick?
Hey! That was my last car! How in heck...

OK, now I know that Big Brother wacheth and all that stuff. I'm ex-military, working for a defense contractor, and my father is a nut-job conspiracy theorist (the smart kind, who's actually right). So it doesn't surprise me that information like this can be had. But this is a simple registration on a website. A pharmacy website! AND I DIDN'T EVEN GIVE IT MY SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER OR DRIVER'S LICENSE NUMBER!

Scary, huh? I've tried to be careful before, not giving out my real information when I don't have to, obfuscating things, and remembering what I tell whom, and keeping stuff to myself. I don't "own" any credit cards. I have no outstanding loans, apart from my vehicle, which was a non-credit-check purchase that will be paid off in a few months. (Instead of non-payment going on my credit, they have a tracking device on the vehicle, which is, itself, scary.) Even my own daughter doesn't know what my actual face looks like. She's only seen me pixelated.

But this... a drug store... I shudder to think what dirt Wal-mart and Kroger's have on me!

02 April 2011

World's Greatest Cook

One of my favorite authors is Rick Cook. Rick wrote a series of fantasy books that gave me inspiration during my early days as a programmer.

Let me say that again... Rick wrote a fantasy series that gave me inspiration during my early days as a programmer.


Anyway, the first book begins with "Wiz" Zumwalt, a Silicone Valley programmer, being summoned to a universe where science as we know it doesn't work, and magic rules. Wiz has no talent for magic, so he must learn to use his programming skills to survive.

Neat, huh? One of the things I love about the books is the various sayings, both borrowed and original, that proceed the various chapters. Here's a sample:

You can always tell a good idea by the enemies it makes.
- programmer's axiom

Everything always takes twice as long and costs four times as much as you planned.
- programmer's axiom

It's never the technical stuff that gets you in trouble. It's the personalities and the politics.
- programmer's sayings

Those who can't do, teach.
- article of faith among students

And vice-versa.
- programmer's addendum to students' article of faith

Living with a programmer is easy. All you need is the patience of a saint.
- programmer's wives' saying

Applications programming is a race between software engineers, who strive to produce idiot-proof programs, and the Universe which strives to produce bigger idiots.
- software engineers' saying

So far, the Universe is winning.
- applications programmers' saying

The three most dangerous things in the world are a programmer with a soldering iron, a hardware type with a program patch and a user with an idea.
- computer saying

You can't do just one thing.
- Campbell's Law of everything

Friends come an go, but enemies accumulate.
- Murphy's Law #1024

and sometimes the the real trick is telling the difference.
- Murphy's Law #1024a

Whenever you use a jump, be sure of your destination address.
- programmer's saying

Always secure your files. You never know who's lurking about.
- programmer's saying

Never argue with a redhaired witch. It wastes your breath and only delays the inevitable.
- the collected sayings of Wiz Zumwalt

If you eat a live toad first thing in the morning, nothing worse will happen all day long.
- California saying

To you or the toad.
- Niven's restatement of California saying

--well, most of the time, anyway...
- programmer's caveat to Niven's restatement of California saying

You never find out the whole story until after you've signed the contract.
- programmer's saying

A jump gone awry is one of the hardest bugs to locate.
- programmer's saying

You can't unscramble an egg.
- old saying

You can if you're powerful enough.
- the collected sayings of Wiz Zumwalt

Magic is real, unless declared integer.
- the collected sayings of Wiz Zumwalt

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
- Clarke's law

Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology.
- Murphy's reformulation of Clarke's law

Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from a rigged demostration.
- programmer's restatement of Murphy's reformulation of Clarke's law

Putting twice as many programmers on a project that is late will make it twice as late.
- Brooks' law of programming projects

Never give a sucker an even break.
- W. C. Fields

Especially not if he's a big mean sucker.
- the collected sayings of Wiz Zumwalt

Sleep? Isn't that a completely inadequate substitute for caffine?
- programmer's saying

Good client relations are the key to a successful project.
- consultants' saying

At some time in the project you're going to have to break down and finally define the problem.
- programmer's saying

Customer support is an art, not a science.
- marketing saying

So are most other forms of torture.
- programmers' response

Programming is like pinball. The reward for doing it is the opportunity of doing it again.
- programmers' saying

Now, I won't clam that Rick is an Arthur Clarke or Ted Sturgeon, but he's definitely better than a lot of authors I've read. More importantly, his books are both full of adventure and laced with actual plot, not to mention quite funny. And it's all stuff I could even let my child read.

10 February 2011

Kids Today

So, I was sitting at my computer reading someone's e-mail, and my daughter came up to me and started to speak...

"Ashley, I..." she said, as she touched my shoulder, screamed, wet herself, and yanked her hand back. "What the fudge what that?!?!?"

"What the fudge was what?"

"Nothing. Anyway, I..." She touched the same shoulder again and was shocked again. "That's not right!"

Now, in my defense, it didn't hurt me at all. I love static!

"You know, child, that the only magick I currently practice on a regular basis is my daily work in shielding myself, right? I put up a shield intended to protect me from those who might harm me. And also, from the Forces of Good."

"You think I'm a Force for Good? When did you start thinking that?"

I closed the random person's e-mail and turned to face her. "Well, I was just this morning mentally comparing you to some of the great evil-doers of our time. Charles Manson, my brother, Mahatma Gandhi..."

The rude child interrupted me! "Wait, what? Gandhi?!?!?"

She's very excitable.

"Of course, Gandhi. He was a British agent."


What the HECK are they teaching in school these days? "Look, he convinced his whole country that the best way to resist the British oppression was to make a nasty face at them and not fight back."


"Also, his lifestyle had him frequently on his hands and knees, and going barefoot, so that his hands, knees and feet built up thick, hard layers of skin. His hands couldn't have been used for any kind of fine work."


"And his uber-strict diet left him not only very underweight and malnourished, but, combined with his dental hygiene, left him with very bad breath."

"So how does all that make him evil?"

"It doesn't. It makes him a super-calloused fragile mystic vexed with halitosis."

She simply put her face in her hands and walked away, mumbling "You're weird."

So you can understand when I say that children today just don't make sense. Maybe I'm getting too old to understand them.

In retrospect, I never did find out what she wanted to talk about.