Foiled again?

This morning, apropos of nothing, my computer at work issued the following thinly veiled threat:

Cannot open file linux/tmp/…/include/curses.h

My first thought was “Why did you try?”  I’m not sure what’s in that file (because it can’t be opened).  I assumed it was a list of expletives that the operating system uses to understand what I’m yelling at it.  But I’m beginning to think it’s something more insidious (“Your computer sees a plague of festering boils as a series of 1’s and 0’s…”)

I’m starting to look askance at that “Pandora” app on my phone…

Kids these days

I had a very stressful conversation at work today.  It didn’t start that way.  In fact, I wasn’t even really part of it at first.  But I got dragged in through the following exchange in the next cubicle:

Coworker: Something something gun control something Ted Nugent.

Young coworker: Who’s Ted Nugent?

Me (over cubicle wall): Stop being so young over there!

I am not sensitive about my age.  I’m 51.  I practice the Doctor McCoy philosophy on aging:  “What’s so bad about not having died yet?”  And my contemporaries are a very mixed bag.  I am about 4 weeks younger than Barack Obama (who nobody calls old, in spite of the grey hair), 3 weeks older than Dan Marino (who has been called old since he was 33), and 4 weeks older than Heather Locklear (who I mention only because I’ve had a huge crush on Heather Locklear since Dan Marino was young). Continue reading

My safety and security

Sometime last year, my company installed a second set of doors in the entrance to our building, creating a sort of airlock between the building and the outside world.  I’m not sure exactly why they did this.  The air outside the building roughly matches the air inside the building (with the occasional overlay of pine pollen).  Perhaps it is precautionary, in case the Earth’s atmosphere falls off, or slips down into a giant puddle around Antarctica.  (This would be due to the sequester.)

Anyway, part of the airlock infrastructure is the presence of a sensor.  Now, sensors are generally good things.  I have a sensor on my front porch light to turn it on when people approach at night.  Sensors are also particularly helpful when opening supermarket doors, or determining whether an approaching stranger has life signs and/or armed photon torpedoes.

But this sensor is different.  The second you open the inner door to leave, it helpfully announces in a loud voice, “FOR YOUR SAFETY AND SECURITY, PLEASE CLOSE THE DOOR!  FOR YOUR SAFETY AND SECURITY, PLEASE CLOSE THE DOOR!”  And rather than doing this in a calm, friendly, Eddie-your-shipboard-computer voice, this announcement comes from a tinny speaker in an accented drone.  My best approximation would be the voice of Stephen Hawking’s chair if it were digitized from a Jeff Foxworthy monologue, or possibly a Southern Fried Dalek.

Understand, I’m a traditionalist in many ways, and my family (going back at least two generations) has pretty much made it a habit of leaving buildings through open doors.  Going out the window seems needlessly complex, given that the windows in my building don’t open.  And to be honest, I’m too set in my ways to start vibrating my molecules fast enough to pass through the door without opening it every evening.

But now I’m concerned.  Am I really unsafe and insecure because I opened the door to go home?  Or is this just my employer messing with me so that I’ll stay inside and continue working?

If you need me, I’ll be huddled in the corner with a steak knife pondering the subject.

The geese are back in town

The geese have returned to the Research Triangle.  Every year around this time, we get an influx of Canadian geese around the area.  I really never noticed them until about 5 years ago, when I started my current job.  There is a small lake near the campus, and we usually get a flock of about 15-20 geese milling around for a few months.

Canadian geese are proud, majestic creatures.  How majestic?  Very.  Majestic as a rock.  Majestic as a stump.  Majestic as a sack of hammers.  Today when I went out for lunch, I saw two geese in the parking lot.  One was majestically sitting in the middle of the lane like a wooden decoy.  The other was majestically standing in mid-stride in the middle of the intersection.  Boy howdy, that’s majestic!

The lake is down a steep hill with no easy access from the road.  It’s a perfect spot for nesting.  Or at least I imagine it is.  I lack any real nesting experience, so I may be talking out of school, but if I were a migratory bird, I would probably want to build my nest away from things like people and traffic.  Then again, if I were a migratory bird coming down from Canadia, I probably wouldn’t wait until the first day of spring to start nesting.

But I am not a proud, majestic Canadian goose.  Every year, one of these birds decides to build its nest in a very public area.  Last year, it was in the two foot wide strip of grass between two lanes in the parking lot.  The year before, in a three-foot strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street, right along the path from my building to the cafeteria.  The year before that, it was right outside the front door of my building.  This does not appear to arise from their great love of humanity.  The birds seem to honk wildly at passers-by who venture too close.

This honking behavior is ironic, given that honking back is strictly forbidden.  Apparently Canadian geese are an endangered species.  Given their majestic way of striding into traffic at the speed of paint drying, this is not surprising.  But it means that many of the natural methods of human-goose communication (shooting, running over, chasing off, honking one’s horn at) are prohibited by law.  It seems that Canadian geese do not handle stress well, and yet they’re too majestic to avoid human contact.  So the law steps in.

As a result, many people I know regard the geese with a sense of awe.  I don’t know how many times I have heard people comment about these awe-full geese.  Just the other day, I overheard a man saying how awe-full it was that no one could do anything about them leaving their droppings on the mat in front of the building.

I don’t get this reaction, but then again, some people have a pretty majestic idea of what they should be in awe of.

Green initiative

I got an e-mail today from my company’s HR department, setting up a meeting for one of my coworkers and I to interview a potential candidate.  The e-mail came with three attachments: the job description, the candidate’s resume, and the company’s “interview guide”, covering all the do’s and don’ts of conducting an interview.  The e-mail ended with the following sentence:

“Since we are running low on interview guides, the two of you will have to share the attached document.”

Let that sink in for a second.  We were each sent a digital copy of a document, and told that we had to share it because they didn’t have enough copies to go around.  Apparently, my company is suffering through an acute PDF shortage.  Probably as a result of the sequester.

At first, I assumed this was a holdover from an earlier age, when documents were printed on paper by trained professionals at great expense.  No, the e-mail specifically notes that the guide in question is an attachment to the e-mail.  This isn’t a simple cut-and-paste error.  Someone changed the statement to reflect the digital nature of the guide, while attempting to (I guess) retain the digital rights management on the file.

I talked to my coworker, and we came to an equitable arrangement where we agreed not to look at the document at the same time.

The interview is on Friday.  It is going to take all my willpower not to send a reply e-mail back to HR, returning the PDF file to them for reuse, and thanking them for letting me borrow their precious set of 1’s and 0’s.

This was the best work day I’ve had in quite a while.