Fast Doofs

The local news tonight reported that the police are looking for a pair of thieves who broke into three fast food joints on Christmas. I expressly don’t say they robbed the restaurants, as only the second one actually had a little money in it. There’s footage of the would-be burglars, and it seems likely that they’ll be picked up soon.

Honestly I’m most amazed that they thought there’d be any money, let alone enough to make it worth the risk.

My Impression of the Planning Stage of the Crime Spree

Doof #1: “Hey! Mickey D’s will be closed on Christmas! Like, nobody will be there! Now’s our chance!”

Doof #2: “Wouldn’t they have taken most of the money to the bank after closing the night before?”

Doof #1: “Listen to me! No one will be there! It’ll be a cinch!”

Doof #2: “Do you think they have video surveillance?”

Doof #1: “Everyone will be home! It’s like they’re inviting us in!”

Doof #2: “I dunno…”

Doof #1: “Eggnog shaaaaaakes!”

Doof #2: “Hell yeah! I’ll drive!”


I’m Not Exactly Clear About How Deer Use Guns

There’s a fire station just a few blocks away from us, but out here in Rural Town the only police are state troopers and the county sheriff. I’ve always been curious about response time. If, say, a couple of deer started shooting up Main Street how long would it take for help to arrive?

I use that example because the local deer have plenty of motivation for revenge. I think more are killed each year by vehicles on our village and township roads than are shot in the woods of the entire state. When they decide to fight back, they’ll be coming after drivers not hunters.

Early last week, Wendi’s station wagon took out a young buck. It was technically a victory, but the wagon is likely to be written off as totalled. It’s certainly not drivable at the moment; parts of the outer body are missing and the electrical system’s gone hysterical. Still, at only one deer collision in the decade we’ve been out here, I’d say we’ve come out ahead.

That does mean that we’re down to just my Saturn Ion for a bit. This complicates my plan to get its alignment fixed, but the bigger problem is that sometimes we need to be in different places. Saturday, for instance, I had planned a day of movies with friends (12:00 – ~9:00) while she had an evening game (5:00 – 1:00). Not an insurmountable problem, but one that required some thought. Wendi exchanged a kitten visit for a ride to the game, and I dropped by after the movies and hung out until the game wrapped up. Problem solved.

We were on a country road when a police van pulled us over. It turned out that one of my headlights was out. My proof of insurance was out of date (which I would think is more common than not), but after checking me against the Naughty Persons Registry the officer let us go with a caution to drive safely. Exhausted from the long day, yet suddenly alert, we continued on our way home.

We were in the center of town, just a few blocks from home, when we were pulled over by a police car. He ran the license plate and came over to Ion. All of our papers were out and ready.

“You’ve already been pulled over?” he asked.

We laughed wearily and allowed that we had.

He jotted down a few notes and wished us a good morning.

I’m no longer concerned about police response time in our area. When the deer finally do come for us, I’ll just bust a headlight and start driving. The police will arrive within moments.

Toxic Environment

When we came back from the disastrous vet appointment, the rescue cats were quarantined in our enclosed porch. We had scheduled a second try at blood work and shots and had only four weeks to convert the kittens to a semblance of domestication. Wendi announced that it was time to put them through Kitten Boot Camp.

Assuming the mantle of drill sergeant, she started to put them through their paces. Within a week, she had them literally eating out of her hand, and she could pet them a little while they ate. It seemed as though every day brought new progress.

My efforts as emergency back-up substitute sergeant were not as effective. The mother cat was fine with me, but the kittens have identified me as a gigantic, lumbering threat. I did stick my finger (covered in chicken baby food) in their hidey-hole and got the girl kitten to show her head. Now she runs away from me but is sure to stay within sight — you know, because chicken.

(What is it about chicken that cats crave so much? Did their ancestors hunt wild chickens along the banks of the Nile? Now that I think about it, where did chickens even come from? I bet Erich von Daniken never thought about that angle.)

The weirdest part of the whole process was that our own cats all started to climb into bed with us at night. At first we thought they were just feeling jealous and needy. After all, Wendi was spending a lot of time with the rescue cats. Then we noticed that they were spending their weekdays upstairs as well. Were they that offended by the newcomers that they didn’t even want to be downstairs?

That didn’t seem right. They had no hesitation about joining us in the living room; they just wanted nothing to do with the first floor unless we were there. We just had no idea why.

After a while, Wendi decided that the rescue cats had gotten used to human voices. We had set a clock radio by the door — set to NPR — and had been turning it on when we went to bed or left for work. Now we felt that it was okay to stop doing that.

The day after we stopped turning on the radio, our cats were back to their normal routine of lounging around downstairs.

Apparently, they had really hated talk radio.

Perhaps the authorities should start using “Morning Edition” to break stand-off situations.

Taxing Questions

WARNING: This one has a lot of discussion of vomit.

I’ve been in a lot of taxis this week, and I have to say that after about half of a block the novelty wore off. Initially I enjoyed just watching Chicago streets go by, but seeing how the cabbies moved us through traffic made me uneasy. Eventually, I distracted myself by reading the posted fee schedule.

$3.25 just to sit in the cab. Another $1 for each additional passenger. $0.20 per mile. $50 for vomit cleanup.

Wait, what?

I read it again. “$50 vomit cleanup”.

When encountering oddly specific charges like this, my brain goes through a predictable downward spiral of irreverent thinking.


There has to be a reason for cabbies to list this cleanup charge, and that reason is likely that fares throw up a lot. When I mentioned this to Wendi, she drily observed that drunks take cabs.

At least they aren’t hurling in their own cars, right?

How does this help?

Picture this:

A thoroughly plastered individual crawls into a taxi and somehow manages to convey a destination to the driver. The cab heads off, and pretty soon it’s weaving in and out of lanes, cutting off traffic, and making Automan-style right-angle turns. Our hypothetical fare feels a gallon of booze sloshing around, and the urge to spew rises like water in a death trap.

Suddenly, the passenger sees that there’s a $50 charge for downloading dinner in the cab! …and ralphs. Because, you know, belly full of poison.

It’s clear that the fee is intended to be punitive and is only listed so that they can say it was posted.

How much was that again?

This is where I always end up when punitive charges are posted — performing a cost-benefit analysis.

For $50 I can toss cookies all over this vehicle. Under the seat, between the cushions, under the window — anywhere I can reach. That’s not cheap, as thrills go, but it’s hardly more than a boat tour. Really, what’s more authentic? Throwing up in a cab, that’s what I think.

Just don’t forget to tip.

Magical, Farting Elves

Network diagnostics are not a strong point of mine, so when things get screwy at work I’m pretty helpless.

Today, for about a half an hour, the network completely forgot I existed. I lost access to servers, code repositories, email, and a number of internal apps. Some of my co-workers suggested that I should check that my passkey still worked, but others pointed out that I might just leave if it didn’t.

To stay sane (and because IM still worked) I chatted with a co-worker while struggling to get my access restored.

Me: You know how you had network problems the other day?
C-W: Yeah?
Me: Now I can’t log into anything.
C-W: oy.
Me: My computer locked me out, and I could only get back in by restarting it.
Me: But anything that requires a password is hosed.
C-W: Freak week.

13 minutes later…

Me: It’s exactly as though my password expired, only it shouldn’t have.
Me: I didn’t get 1000 reminders. 😉
C-W: Weird.
Me: Aaaand now it works again.
C-W: Lucky you!
Me: Someone must have fed the elves.
C-W: Or farted.

Yup. Farting elves are the cause of so many of our problems. If only there were a way to treat their tiny little flatulance.

Weighty Matters

“It’s really quite an interesting psychological phenomenon.” — Andrew Steyn, The Gods Must Be Crazy

I can’t wear my wedding ring until I either gain more weight or get some sort of spacer for it. (For the record, I’m planning for the second option.) I’ve recently shed a few pounds, and the darn thing just slides off my finger now.

A few years ago, I lost quite a lot of weight and had the same problem. Then I gained most of it back and could wear the ring again, so yay?

Having been through this cycle of ring-wearing feasibility gave me an opportunity to perform a field study on the assumptions of wait staff.

There’s a sports bar conveniently located a block away from work. Wendi and I eat there often enough that the staff remember our typical drink orders. We’ll sit down, and a waitperson will point at us and identify our beverages. We confirm, and everybody leaves the encounter feeling pretty good.

When I stopped wearing my wedding ring the first time, I began to notice something odd. These same servers began to give us separate checks. I pointed this out to Wendi, who found it amusing, but neither of us clearly recalled how the bills had previously been handled. My perception could be biased by own acute awareness of my empty finger, but we suspected otherwise.

Now and then a server would ask whether it would be one check or two, but the emphasis was always on their assumption that it would be two. “Will this be separate?”, “Two checks?”, or the like. Again, we couldn’t remember how the question had been phrased before.

Fortunately (?) I beefed up again, and my ring finger once more sported proof of my official pairing. (Sorry, ladies and gents. This marbled steak is taken!)

The change was immediate.

The very same servers who had been assuming we would pay separately now thought differently.

“Will this be together?”

Same wait staff. Same couple. Same drinks. The only difference was whether I had my ring on.

Recent weight loss has again made my wedding ring fit too loosely. No sooner had I started to leave the ring at home then we were right back to separate checks. It seemed our suspicions were confirmed.

Now, how do I get grant money for a proper study?

May I Freshen Your Documentation?

There’s a post-it on a cupboard at work that explains how to make coffee. I wrote earlier about how these instructions were modified to convert the measurements to decimal.

The coffee maker was recently replaced with a Keurig pod brewer. The only thing to measure now is the size of the coffee cup. No more scooping; just pop in your pod in push the button.

So we can toss the instructions now, right?

Wrong! As developers it is our responsibility to update documentation!

I see the Keurig. Now what?

I see the Keurig. Now what?

All of the previous text has been commented (crossed) out, and “see Keurig” has been added to the document. Good job, developers! Keep documentation relevant!

Hall Passing

There’s a hallway at work that is so narrow that only one person may use it at a time. It extends for around 10-12 feet and provides several daily opportunities for hilarious collisions. This constricted space was created by the installation of a large cube, purportedly to create an open work area.

A convex mirror has been placed at one end of the passage, and I don’t know anyone that actually checks it for oncoming traffic. Usually we just round the corner and discover that a Zax is already in transit. Then we back up and smile awkwardly until the way is clear.

The cube wall is about 5 1/2 feet tall, so I can see over it. I’ll sometimes see the tops of heads bobbing along, which cues me in that someone might be about to run into me. Or vice versa, to be fair.

Diagram of hallway created by cubical

Every day we have to clear Spartans out of this narrow passage.

This morning as I crept down the hallway, over the wall I noticed a thatch of dark hair approaching the intersection. This matched the scalp of a programmer I’ve worked with for a few years. Perhaps a bit loopy from my sinus medicine, I decided to spring out in front of him.

I leapt sideways out of the alley, facing my victim with my arms spread wide.

“AAAAH!” I yelled.

The release manager nearly spilled her tea as she clutched at her heart.

Sheepishly, I apologized for scaring her. She was very kind about it — even thanking me for preventing a collision — but I felt really stupid about the whole thing.

I slunk away, wondering if I’d have gotten that good of a reaction from the guy I’d intended to scare.

Sandwich Stackers

I went into a local restaurant to pick up some sandwiches for dinner. It was a little before the normal dinner hour, and things were still pretty slow. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that the waitress was doing something in the dining room. As I left I looked over, and I almost stumbled when I realized what was happening.

With intense focus, she was stacking unfolded menus into a tower — as though they were cards. She was just finishing the third tier, and it was almost above her head.

I really hope that as the night wore on she plucked menus off of her tower as though it was perfectly natural.