Life, the Universe, and Everything may be unavailable Monday evening

Thursday I received this e-mail at work.  It was part of a giant distribution list, so I don’t know exactly who the sender is, but it was clearly something everyone needed to be informed about.  The e-mail is reproduced here in its entirety.

Device42 Maintenance
Monday, June 5th
5:00PM – 7:00PM PDT

Device42 will undergo maintenance from 5 PM – 7 PM PDT

When: 5.00PM PDT
Where: Device42
Impact: Device42 might be offline intermittently.

If I knew more about this (or, in fact, ANYTHING about this), I might be concerned.

A labor of dislike

My sister recently unearthed some lost works from my late mother’s personal art collection. Both of these are from my “Elementary Period” (1967-73).

The first one is a scathing commentary on the cruel hegemony of the construction and paper industries, and their effect on childhood innocence. The giant anime-style eyes betray the deep emotion I felt, as do the cat whiskers. I call it, “Why I Majored in Computer Science and Not Art”.

The second piece is a study in mixed-media expressionism. Notice how the haphazard crayon work dares the viewer to find straight lines and defies conventional notions of what colors go together or what a stained glass window is supposed to look like. I call it, “Untalented Child Seeks NEA Grant”. Truly a work ahead of its time.

Organized Crime-sharing (or, Driving in Vegas, the “Chicago Way”)

“Geez, Mr. Uber, dem’s some awful nice cars youse got dere.  I’m just tinkin’, it would be a shame if dey was to get into some kinda jam, y’know what I’m sayin’?”

I saw this outside the Tropicana Hotel and Casino on the Strip last week.  It’s nice to see the Mafia can still change with the times.

Disclaimer: I refuse to go to their website and ruin the illusion.

2017 NCAA Tournament: A retrospective

Well, as expected, the NCAA tournament came to an abrupt end yesterday afternoon when the South Dakota State Jackrabbits were defeated by Gonzaga 66-46 in the only game of any interest to me.

South Dakota State, who entered the game after winning the Summit League tournament by sweeping conference rivals Nebraska-Omaha, the St. Aloysius Parish Children’s Choir, and the Swanson Family Reunion, accidentally led for the first 17 minutes of the game before remembering that they were a #16 seed. The coach attributed the oversight to lack of sleep due to the uncomfortable seats on the bus. Fortunately, the Jackrabbits were able to bounce back in the second half in order to avert having to stay and play a second game, as the team did not pack additional socks and underwear for the trip.

With the NCAA tournament effectively over, the other 63 teams are apparently going to fritter away the next few weeks playing basketball in God-forsaken places like Utah. Meanwhile, the Jackrabbits will be enjoying the buffet at Golden Corral before the prices change, and then heading back to wherever they came from.

Interesting side note: The South Dakota state university system has about 32,000 students, which comprises about 4% of the state’s population. (The corresponding numbers for North Carolina and Pennsylvania are 1.8% and 0.77%, respectively.)

Disclaimer: The interestingness of the previous side note was calculated relative to my interest in any remaining NCAA tournament games. The results were a landslide.

And for the record, my bracket prediction remains on track. Go two #1s, a #2, and a #4 or #6!

2017 NCAA Tournament Preview

As the NCAA tournament begins, my Final 4 prediction is that it will be two #1 seeds, a #2 seed, and one team seeded either #4 or #6. I don’t care which teams or who wins.

My interest in this year’s tournament begins and ends with South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits (18-16) play in the Summit League, which is apparently a Division 1 shirts-vs.-skins pickup conference that includes such legendary basketball programs as North Dakota State, Oral Roberts University, the indecisively named Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (which calls itself IUPUI, apparently on purpose), and the Bismark Kiwanis Club.

South Dakota State finished 6th in the Summit League regular season before accidentally winning their conference tournament and earning themselves an overnight bus trip to Salt Lake City, Utah to be crushed by Gonzaga (31-1), followed by an overnight bus ride back to South Dakota.

The Penn State Nittany Lions have been named this year’s designated survivor for the NCAA tournament, and will sit in the bowling alley under the student basketball arena until the tournament is over.

Go Jackrabbits. (An exclamation point seems excessive here.)

Inadvisable use of hands

There is a picture going around the internet of me holding my friend Stephanie’s baby during a recent lunch.

This photograph, which is evidence of something that probably really occurred, should not be taken as a license for people to start handing me babies willy-nilly. The incident in question was triggered by exigent circumstances where mommy had to go get more napkins, and should not be considered an endorsement of the holding of babies in general.

Science has shown that, regardless of their cuteness, babies are notoriously squirmy, drooly, and fragile. In addition, babies have only one diagnostic message (“wah”) which they report in any situation, from “mysterious childhood ailment” to “It’s 2:47 AM. Do you know where I am?” to “mommy went to get more napkins”. Science does not understand why they do this.

It is my position that babies should only be handled by professional baby wranglers, or parents who have received extensive baby-management training, such as Lamaze.  (From the French ‘lamaze’, which possibly means “I don’t know, have you tried changing him?”)

Also, make sure you have plenty of napkins.

(Note: The characters Squirmy, Drooly, and Fragile did not score well with test audiences for Walt Disney’s reboot of Snow White and the Ten Dwarves. Their scenes are being reshot. The Squirmy Drooly Fragile ride at Disneyworld has been delayed until 2019.)

Epilogue: There are rumors that a picture exists from three years ago of me holding Stephanie’s other child (code-named ‘Hrothgar’). This probably also happened, but I have written it off as a youthful indiscretion.

I think my sister also has a photo of me holding my nephew as a baby, using the traditional “running-back” technique (below)**. I am pleased to say that I did not fumble him, although I did suffer muscle cramps from trying not to move my arm, out of fear I would break him. (Disclaimer: This is not me.  Picture courtesy of “Google man holding baby”.)


** Not to be confused with the “immaculate reception” technique (below) popular in Pittsburgh during the 1970’s. This style of baby holding was discontinued after extensive controversy as to whether the baby touched the ground.




I am become App, the Destroyer of Sleep

Around 10:30 morning I received a text from an unknown number, indicating I was 9 minutes late for a video chat with my friend Laura.  As I did not have a video chat scheduled with Laura, and the text had come from a number in South Dakota (a state known for Laura not being there), I texted her directly to find out if she had sent me an invite to some weird new social media platform.

She indicated that she had not, and that “these are the first text messages I’ve sent today and I haven’t been on any social media.”

I was surprised by her response.  You see, Laura is a Millennial.  As I understand it, Millennials exist on a sort of virtual Island, and if you don’t press the ‘Send’ button every 108 minutes, the Internet (represented by Oceanic flight 815, above) will crash.

When I asked how it was possible for her to still be unconnected at 10:30AM, she replied that she had slept in.

While I applaud her for catching up on much needed Zzz’s, I found myself wondering if there was some way to stay in touch with the digital world without the need to remain conscious.  (Disclaimer: Other than Twitter).

To meet this “need”, I envision the creation of two new apps.

The first is an app which will allow Millennials who talk in their sleep to stream their unintelligible mumbling directly to their friends.  I call this app Napchat.  (Disclaimer: The name Napster was taken.)

The other app allows Millennials to post pictures of themselves not having gotten out of bed yet, so they don’t have to respond to texts.  I call this app Slumblr.

As I write this, I feel a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of sleepless Millennials suddenly reached for their iPhones, and went to bed.

Author’s Note: I have already inadvertently caused my phone’s auto-complete function to begin suggesting the words Napchat and Slumblr.  We are doomed.

Being of sound(ish) mind and body…

Today I had a meeting with my lawyer to do some estate planning.  My family has been dealing with some of the ambiguities of my father’s estate, and I realized that there were ways to add complexity to the estate planning in order to simplify things for the heirs.  The process is fascinating, and in some ways similar to designing software.  (Everything has to be spelled out in detail; the default conditions are usually wrong; some user will screw up and blame you for not being clear, etc.)

In the process, I learned some important things that I wanted to pass on, no pun intended. (Disclaimer:  I didn’t actually go out of my way to avoid a pun.  It just sort of happened.  I have no regrets.)

  1. If you have stuff in your life (friends, family, money, classic comic books in plastic bags that you never read*), you should have a will.
  2. In North Carolina, if you kill someone to inherit their estate, you are automatically disinherited.  (Note: I am sending a copy of this statute to everybody in my family.)
  3. Apparently, in the case of foul play, you can not set up a trust to pay for someone to find your killer and avenge you.  This seems unreasonable in light of point #2 above.
  4. You cannot leave your entire fortune to your cat if you do not have a cat.
  5. You cannot instruct the executor to buy you a cat for the purposes of inheritance, because then the estate owns the cat, and you can’t leave the estate to itself.**
  6. The same provision might also be true for dogs, but I didn’t ask, because I don’t like dogs.
  7. You cannot add a section indicating what should be done with your estate if you have faked your own death.  This seems like an oversight in the law, considering how often people on TV fake their own deaths.
  8. The law does not require that the attorney assemble all the heirs in a musty drawing room for the reading of the will.  (Disclaimer: I have mixed emotions about this, as I do not have a drawing room, and I’m not sure where to rent one.)  This means that if you plan to make a video recording of your will, you will have to post it to YouTube.
  9. If you have a living will, make sure it is specific about the conditions for withdrawing life support.  Do not, for example, allow your loved ones to pull the plug if you fall asleep in front of the TV.  It won’t make you die faster, and it may take a few minutes for the TV to reset when you plug it back in.
  10. Many attorneys are reluctant to include scavenger hunts with cryptic clues as part of the will.  My lawyer indicated that she did not want to become a case study in some law textbook where the client wrote a crazy will and the lawyer screwed something up.  (Disclaimer: This was her reasoning, not mine.)  I was hoping that my legacy would include an entry in the syllabus for Estate Planning Bloopers and Practical Jokes 101, but she was adamant.

* If you have a bunch of comic books in plastic bags that you’ve never read, you may be interested to know that many comic books contain colorful pictures and words which tell a story.  These stories are in many ways reminiscent of the stories you find in Wikipedia entries for the same comic book issues.  Also, if you’re a grammar Nazi, I invite you to spend time reading the plastic bags.  There is valuable information about whether or not they are suffocation hazards for children.

** Doing so would rip a hole in the time-space continuum, which might not matter to you if you’re dead, but the rest of us are trying to live here, thank you very much.

The Shriek

A few weeks ago I had business at my church one weekday morning.  As I was walking by the fellowship hall, I saw that the preschool kids were having races across the room.*  The kids were very quiet and well mannered until the teacher shouted “Go!”  At that moment, the kids took off running, and each of them began emitting a paint-peeling squeal that immediately stopped when they reached the other side of the room.

I don’t have children of my own, so I have never studied the phenomenon of why children scream while running.  However, this does not stop me from making up two theories about why this happens:

Theory 1: Children have small torsos.  As a result, their legs are much closer to their vocal chords than with adults.  It is possible that the vibrations of their feet hitting the floor as they run are transmitted directly to the vocal chords, causing them to vibrate at a much higher frequency than normal.

Theory 2: Children are inexperienced.  Children as young as three years of age may have been running for as little as three years.  The screaming may be a reflex reaction caused by the sudden realization, “Holy crap!  I can’t believe I’m moving this fast!  How did that happen?”

Little-Known Made-Up Fact: On the TV show Arrow, the “canary cry” sound made by the Black Canary is an actual recording of children playing tag** during recess at St. Mary’s Preschool in Vancouver, British Columbia.

*Child safety disclaimer 1: Racing is a form of competition, and may result in winners and losers.  No children experienced loss of self-esteem due to the fact that they were raised by actual grown-ups and not emotionally stunted overprotective weenies.  No participation awards were presented in the running of this race.

**Child safety disclaimer 2: Tag is a form of competition, and may result in winners or losers.  All children participating in this game were provided with juice boxes and a nap, after which they didn’t even remember playing tag, because it was time to feed the hamster.

(Trigger warning: Although Trigger was a three-year old stallion, he never screamed like a banshee on fire while running. This may be due to the fact that his feet were further away from his vocal chords.  Or possibly that his parents were not emotionally stunted overprotective weenie thoroughbreds.)


Quality communications

I’m always amused when I call some customer service place, and they start the conversation with “This call may be recorded for quality purposes.”  Since the quality of customer service never seems to improve, I assume that it is the quality of my requests that is being studied.  “Listen carefully, and you can tell riiiiight… there… that he didn’t explicitly decline the Platinum Package.  That’s just a rookie mistake that will cost him $99 a month until he’s dead.”

So I’m driving to work this morning, and my car rings.  My cell phone is connected to my car via Bluetooth, so it feels very high-tech to me when I can answer the phone with my car.  (Disclaimer: I’m old, and I still think this is cool.  Leave me alone.)  The following is the entirety of the conversation.

Me: Hello?

Synthetic voice on the other end: You have reached an invalid extension.  Please hang up and try your call again. <click>

I really wish I had recorded the call for quality purposes.  I have no idea what I did wrong.

Disclaimer: Yes, I really want to do this to someone else.