poker hands

Hands on deck

With my birthday now past, I bring to an end my 53rd (or Joker) year.

In my 54th year, I have decided to move beyond Jokering to the next card in the deck of life, so I plan to devote my next year to the ranking of hands:

Full House


beats Two of a Kind


which beats Two of a Kind.

two travolta

Ranch hands


outrank jazz hands.


Mr. Hands


ranks above Mr. Hand.


Agent Victoria Hand of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Victoria Hand Agents of SHIELD

outranks Rollin Hand of Mission: Impossible


who outranks Rollie Fingers of the Oakland A’s.



Hmmm, I seem to have completed my task 364-or-so days early.  Let this be a warning to those of you planning to devote a year to something.


burger chef and jeff

Half it your way

There’s a saying: Go big, or go home.  Maybe you’ve heard it.  (If not, go back to the beginning of this paragraph and begin again, only more slowly.)  This is one of those things often said by people (such as coaches) who have a vested stake in the performance of someone else, but no actual responsibility if they fail.  Spectators who encourage gamblers to go “all-in” with their life savings are another example.

I have always considered that saying to be a false dichotomy.  No matter how big I choose to go, I have every intention of going home afterwards.  Perhaps I’m just a wimp (Disclaimer: Yeah, pretty much), but going big enough to threaten my ability to go home (skydiving, crime wave, going all-in with my home on a pair of deuces) is not for me.

Hold that thought for a moment.

When I was a kid, one of the rewards my parents used to keep my brother and sister and I in check was dinner at a fast-food restaurant.  Because my hometown isn’t that big, we didn’t have the major franchise chains locally.  Instead of Burger King and McDonald’s, my hometown had Burger Chef (home of Burger Chef and Jeff, top) and Winky’s (some sort of clown, if I remember correctly).  Burger Chef was the better of the two, mostly because they had great shakes.

Editor’s Note: The previous paragraph is a non-sequitur (Latin for “not sequitur”). We apologize for the digression.

Anyway, as I was saying before the editor interrupted, we went out for fast food when I was a kid.  Back then, the American government had instituted cola rationing to support our fighting boys overseas.  As a result, sodas came in three sizes: small (12 oz.), medium (16 oz.) and large (20 oz.).  Today, modern advances in soda extraction technology have eliminated the need for such soft drink restrictions.  (Disclaimer: Recent attempts to reinstate soda rationing in New York City were met with resistance because they were stupid and wrong.)

Nowadays, fast-food sodas come in three sizes: small (bathe-in), medium (swim-in), and large (sail-on).  (Disclaimer: Some establishments also sell an extra-large soda (separate-continents-with).  Environmentalists at the drive-thru believe this causes global warming.)

OK, now remember when I was talking about the phrase “Go big or go home”?  (If not, go back to the beginning of this post and begin again, only more quickly.)  I was at Burger King the other day, and as I was perusing the menu, I noticed that for another dollar, I could “Go Large!” and upsize my combo to feed a family of 4 (not included).

But then, just above the “Go Large!” offer, I noticed another, more reasonably priced, option:

Go Medium! 50¢

I’ve never thought of Medium as a way to Go, and certainly not an enthusiastic one, but apparently it is a viable Going alternative.  I imagine it is something like when the Denver Broncos clinch the top seed in the AFC in week 15, and rest Peyton Manning the last two weeks of the regular season.

Given that the first seed guarantees the Broncos at least one playoff game in Denver, I’m pretty sure Peyton gets to go home, even if he sits out.

Author’s Note: My search for a picture of “Burger Chef and Jeff” also turned up this picture:



If I remember correctly, this is a publicity still from the 1996 movie Speed Food, starring Sandra Bullock as Burger Chef, Keanu Reeves as Jeff, and Dennis Hopper as Winky.

Update: Upon further review, Winky appears to be less a clown and more of a psychotic doofus with something in his eye.


The casting of Dennis Hopper in the role now makes more sense.


Self-serving the community

This morning when I went to Barnes & Noble there was a fire truck out front. There was no fire. Apparently there were no fires anywhere this morning, because the firemen were talking with kids, passing out plastic fire helmets*, and posing for pictures with kids next to the fire truck.  (Disclaimer: A “picture” is like a selfie, only someone else takes it — kids, ask your parents.)

I wish to take a stand in support of holding a fire safety program right outside a giant building full of paper.

* Disclaimer: The plastic fire helmets were black.  This is an odd choice of colors, unless you are attempting to recruit anti-firemen to drum up business.  My stand for this is substantially less supportive.

Author’s note: I walked into the store behind a young father and his 4-year old son.  Before we had even gotten through the airlock (that space between the inner and outer doors where they put the table of unsellable books they don’t care about you stealing), the boy took off his black fire helmet, handed it to his father, and said, “Can you hold this?”  I could feel the waves of regret emanating from him as he took the helmet.

Meeting my non-obligations

About 6 months ago I was at a Catholic men’s conference.  The priest who was speaking happened to mention that whenever he is in line at Starbucks, he always pays for the person behind him.   As I am a long-time proponent of giving simply because you can, I decided to adopt this policy myself.  (I have since learned from friends at Starbucks that it is not uncommon for people to do this at the drive-thru.)  Whenever there is someone in line behind me, I will tell the baristperson that the next person’s drink is on me.  I don’t do this for any deeper reasons than 1) I can, and B) it makes other people happy, and I enjoy happiness.  It’s a good return on the investment of a few dollars.

The reactions I have gotten are varied and usually positive.  There’s usually a moment of “What?!” when the baristette tells them their drink is already paid for, followed by a look at me and the question, “Are you serious?”  (Disclaimer: That would be a really mean thing to do.)  Once they realize I am serious, then comes the smile.  Most people thank me two or three times, as if I had just rescued them from the Cybermen.  One woman did a little dance.  Once on a Saturday morning, a teenage girl beamed at me and said, “I’ve been up since 4AM, and everything has gone wrong today.  This is the only good thing that has happened!”  I floated through the entire weekend on that one.  That is why I do it, so someone can go through the rest of their day knowing that something good happened.

But every once in a while, someone will look at me apologetically and say, “Oh, you don’t have to do that!”  I never know quite how to respond to them, because that statement is both obvious and irrelevant.  And it puts me in a quandry, because it kind of defeats the purpose of making people happy to mock them while doing it.

Here are some of the things I want to say, but don’t:

  • “I don’t?!?!  Oh, thank God!  Now I can go buy that wooden hip for my grandmother!”  (Disclaimer: Yes, wooden hip.  As I was writing that line, the terms “wooden leg” and “artificial hip” collided in my mind like those chocolate and peanut butter addicts in the old Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups commercials of my youth.  Coincidentally, a peanut butter/chocolate pileup on the interstate is why my grandmother needs a wooden hip.)
  • “Of course I do!  They’re watching!”

There was one woman who was so adamant about buying her own coffee that she tried to force $5 into my shirt pocket, even as I kept backing away from her.  No matter what I said, she insisted on reimbursing me for her drink.  She relented only when I finally told her, “If you give me back the money, I’m just going to pay for her drink instead!”, referring to the person in line behind her.  (I did end up paying for her drink as well, with far less brouhaha.)  But I really just wanted to stop her and say, “Seriously?  Are you so horrible a person that you’re not worthy of a free cup of coffee?  Do you really need to fight back this hard?”

So I’ve come up with a compromise, one that I hope balances my dual obligations to be kind to strangers and still mock them.  Whenever someone says to me, “You don’t have to do that,” I just turn to them, smile, and say, “I’m sorry, did I ask for your opinion?”

I haven’t been punched yet.  Yet.


A cookie for my thoughts

I had a particularly challenging code bug to work on today.  As is often the case, I blamed it on elves.

Not the kind of elves you’re thinking of.  These are not those kinds of elves.  The elves I’m talking about are more like gremlins, the weird little creatures that damage WWII fighters and freak out William Shatner if you feed them after midnight.  Only with software.

You’re thinking of one of the other kinds of elves.  There are three main kinds of elves: elves that bake cookies, elves that make toys for Christmas, and elves that fight orcs. 

Unfortunately, that got me thinking.  What if there were a kind of elf that makes Christmas cookies for orcs?  (Disclaimer: Yes, I actually thought this.)

So naturally, my next thought was, “What kind of cookies would elves make for orcs?”  (Disclaimer: There is nothing natural about this thought.  Even I can tell that.)

The obvious answer is, of course, orcerdoodles.

Unless you have coconut handy.  Then you can make orcaroons.

But if you don’t have time to bake, you can always buy Orceos.

Or, if you’re on a budget, Uruk-haidrox.

Author’s note: I have needed to get this out of my head all day.  The only way I know to do that is to transfer it to you.  I regret the inconvenience.  To misquote TV spokesagent Samuel L. Fury, “What’s in your imagination?”

Author’s other note: The above post contains numerous stereotypes that might be offensive to the Elvish-American community.  I don’t care.  They keep messing up my code.  If they don’t like it, they can go back to their hollow trees at the North Pole of Middle-Earth.


In vantablackest night

In dark arts and sciences news, a group of researchers in England have created the coolest and most unnecessarily dark substance ever.

The material, known as Vantablack (Very Amazing New and Totally Awesome black), was described by patrons at the Optics Express kiosk at the mall as “really blackety-black”.  It works by taking really thin carbon drinking straws and gluing them to aluminum foil.  Light gets stuck between the tiny straws and is absorbed.*

Vantablack is so dark that the human eye cannot understand what it is seeing, and wanders off in search of simpler colors to look at, like periwinkle and burnt sienna.  It absorbs 99.965% of the light that hits it, setting a new world record for the blackest thing.  The previous record was set by Jack Black and Black Manta at a Clint Black/Black Eyed Peas concert in Blacksburg, Virginia in 2002.

Vantablack’s practical uses include calibrating sensitive imaging systems, which must be pointed at something as black as possible. Today, cameras must be calibrated by pointing them at black items such as a door knocker, London cab, or Audrey Hepburn (below).


There are military uses that the material’s maker, Surrey NanoSystems, is not allowed to discuss.  However, loose-lipped CTO Ben Jensen explained that the landscape disappears on areas covered by it.  “You expect to see the hills and all you can see is like a hole, like there’s nothing there.”  Federal investigators would not comment on any connection between Vantablack and the recent disappearance of certain hills in South Dakota.

Natalie Portman 8100005

The nanostraw material has been grown on sheets of aluminum foil in the Newhaven-based company’s cafeteria. Hot and Bright Star Natalie Portman (shown here floating incorporeally around a dress-shaped hole) told reporters, “I was having lunch at Surrey NanoSystems the other day.  I was enjoying my quiche, but I couldn’t finish it, so they wrapped the leftovers for me in the shape of a Vantablack swan.”

News of the discovery was heralded by groups as diverse as the Goth Poets Society, the National Endowment for the Puritan Arts, and avant-garde hell-raiser Coco Chanel.

Stephen Westland, professour of colour science and technology at Leeds University, said traditional black was actually a colour of light, producing a traditional blacklight to prove his point.  “Many people believe black is the absence of light.  I totally disagree with that.  And I ought to know.  I’m a professour of colour science and technology.”

“It is too a thing!”, he yelled in response to a reporter’s question.  (News that “colour science and technology” was a thing one could profess in was greeted with great excitement by rising third-grader Miranda Johnson of Mrs. Marino’s art class.)

Vantablack is one of a growing number of extreme colors under development.  Scientists in Los Angeles are working on Vannawhite, a white so dazzling it is capable of turning letters, but can only be seen a half hour at a time.  Fantaorange is a shade of orange so orange you can practically drink it.  Colour science experts believe that Fantaorange could be the new Vantablack.

†Visually Appealing but Not Nearly Absolute white

‡Fruity Amalgam of Nectarine, Tangarine and Apricot orange

* Warning: Vantablack should be cleaned periodically with a damp sponge.  Failure to do so will cause it to continue absorbing light until it creates a supernova that rips a hole in the fabric of existence.  Do not dry clean.

Click here to try to see more about Vantablack.  

Click here to see simpler colors like periwinkle and burnt sienna.

One in a row

Today at work I got an e-mail inviting me to “the first in a series of lunch sessions on Concurrency”.  I will not be attending.  It seems to me that if they were really serious about Concurrency, all the sessions would happen at the same time.

Fortune favors the believer

My fortune cookie with dinner said, “The eyes believe themselves; the ears believe other people.”

Upon further review, it turns out the nose believes in life after love, the fingertips believe the children are our future, and the tongue believes in Crystal Light, because I believe in me.

Yep, I’m a believer. Not a trace of doubt in my mind.