Random Synaptic Misfire
The senses consume. The mind digests. The blog expels.

Certain individuals keep telling me that I should be a writer (Hi Mom). This is probably as close as I'll ever come to making that happen.

Baby Kitteh

Category: By Foo
For a couple years, Turtle has been lobbying to adopt another cat. It pains her to know that so many unwanted animals are euthanized at shelters every day and would gladly adopt them all – but she's willing to settle for one. The rationalizations justifications are numerous but include wanting to make sure Furry Dependant #2 has someone to play with when our 14-year-old Furry Dependant #2 is no longer with us.

Ever the wet blanket pragmatist, I countered with logical well-reasoned points supporting my belief that we should hold at two furry dependants. For example, I argued that there was a one-to-one ratio of cats to favorite people, and if we added another someone would always be left out. I referred to this as the "musical laps" argument, which gained exactly zero traction. I also expressed my concern that we'd start seeing all sorts of bad behavior and discord if the established cats decided they just didn't like the new one. Turtle countered with the succinct and undebatable “No. They won't.”

Eventually, one of the neighbors found a kitten stowed away on the engine block of his car and immediately thought of Turtle. A short time later, he arrived with his wife and daughter and a very tiny kitten in a crate. A very tiny, adorable, energetic kitten with a pink nose and needle sharp claws.

Baby Kitteh
Initially, the other two cats wouldn't have anything to do with her. They scuttled off to the nether regions of bed and sofa – those dark domains of refuge typically reserve for dust bunnies and storage boxes full of Christmas present wrapping supplies. It went on that way for about a week, which was mostly fine because Baby Kitteh (we didn't give her a name right away, because Turtle said we were only evaluating her for adoption) was constantly on the move and took up most of our attention.

By the second week, the baby was climbing everything. Turtle's legs looked like she had been dragged through a briar patch, and my leather recliner was scratched and snagged. Domestic tranquility was a distant memory, and the walls frequently rang with anguished shrieks as the baby leapt from floor to leg and scrambled up a back or chest to hang off shoulder or neck. Hydrogen peroxide and liquid bandage were the order of the day. I quickly discovered that the work of scooping the litter for three cats instead of two is somehow doubled, as opposed to the 33.3% increase that a logical person might expect.

Meanwhile, the two older cats had stopped ignoring the newcomer and, after considerable hissing and growling, a sort of equilibrium was reached. The middle child took to hiding in Turtle's closet, and the eldest wearily allowed the baby to trail around the house after him, biting his tail and trilling at him. Before long, he forgot that he was the cat equivalent of a 73-year-old and enthusiastically romped and wrestled with the baby. That's how he hurt his back, pinching a nerve and partially paralyzing one of his rear legs. So now, when he goes in the litter box, he always steps in his wet spot and then tracks muddy footprints from the utility room, across the kitchen, and beyond. The middle child has to nervously sneak into the litter box when she thinks the baby isn't around. This is because the baby likes to stand on top of the covered box and hang her head over the edge to peer inside like some voyeuristic gargoyle.

By the fourth week, we were calling the baby “Bailey”, and despite Turtle's several phone calls and emails suggesting to the neighbor that the trial period wasn't working out, it appeared she was staying. That's probably okay. She has to be locked up in her crate each night, or we'd never get any sleep; but she's a forgiving, affectionate little thing and only wants to rub, rub, rub when we let her out in the morning. The front claws are going to have to go when she's old enough, along with her girl parts, but if we can all survive that long, I think it's all going to work out.

But that's it. Three is the limit. Seriously.
 


Ghost of the Machine

Category: By Foo
When I started working primarily out of my home, last August, I faced a small dilemma: the ancient Dell desktop machine (1.9Ghz, single processor, 1G RAM, 75G hard drive) I'd been using as a testbed for web technologies couldn't come with me. This troubled me, not because it was a great machine or because officially retiring the hardware meant filling out paperwork, but because I had the development environment set up just so*. Also because I knew from painful past experience that the moment the old workhorse was out of my grasp, someone would send me an impassioned email, wanting me to do some of the C++ mainframe integration work or PHP scripting that it had been set up for.

So, before I turned in my paperwork and turned over my equipment to become part of a plastic-wrapped cube of dead electronics waiting on a pallet for transfer to some Chinese landfill**, I did some reading and figured out how to make a virtual copy of the machine's hard drive, which I could then use something like VirtualPC or VMWare to create a virtual machine, once I found a server on which to do so.

Which I never was able to do, because, apparently, a company the size of the one that employs me makes money by not giving anything away, not even to its own employees. It's never in the budget. So old FOORIDER-D4400 (not its real name any more than FooRider is mine) sat quietly on my external backup drive for the better part of a year, not compiling anything, nor accepting Windows updates, nor serving up documentation from its local IIS server.

That is, until earlier this week, when the dreaded words, "Say, we need you to do some mainframe COBOL work for us." For that, I would need my old terminal emulation software (the installation disks for which I'd pitched when I cleaned out my cubicle, last August, and so couldn't install on my current laptop), so out of storage came the image of FOORIDER-D4400. I had to spend a few minutes with VirtualBox (apparently, the major VM players can all read one another's virtual hard drive formats) to set up the machine, but then it came right up, like the hologram of Arnold Rimmer, minus the chrome "H" on his forehead.

Upon reflection, maybe I should have let old FOORIDER-D4400 rest in pieces.


* Translation: "everything was more or less working together in relative harmony" – a rarity, in my line of work.
** I have some lingering doubts about how the recycling of electronics is really conducted, you see.
 


Say what?

Category: By Foo

My wife and I are generally on the same page when it comes to matters of religion, money, and (not insignificantly) whether the free end of a toilet paper roll goes under or over. We do have some differences in the way we communicate, however.

When she casually mentions that she means to do a load of laundry today, my natural response is to acknowledge this intelligence with something along the lines of, "Okay." It's only after she repeats her laundry-doing intention that I may take an additional moment to consider the possibility of subtext in her announcement.

"Are you trying to tell me to take the hamper out to the laundry room?" I might ask.

"Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying," she'll say, hypothetically, and then heave a deep, exasperated sigh.

Then, if intent on pushing my luck, I might observe, possibly even observe aloud, "Wouldn't it be better to just say, 'Please take the hamper out to the laundry room'?"

Hypothetically.

 


Oh, the wondrous things we'll see, when we go to the grocery

Category: By Foo

It's still absurdly hot, here in the Lone Star State, so when Sweetie started muttering about her grocery list, this morning, I threw myself on the grenade and volunteered to go. No sense both of us getting all sweated up, and there wasn't a lot of produce on the list so how bad could it be?

So I hied myself over to yon neighborhood Kroger, parked way the hell out where only the wild shopping carts roam, and snagged a tame one from a corral, dodging minivans on my way to the front door. There, I applied all my ninja skills to fend off assaults from various child sports organizations, all trying to sell me the same “value card” that my wife had already purchased from some neighborhood kid the day before.

Inside, things went pretty smoothly. I ducked and weaved, tossing things from the list into my cart, per my wife's carefully-organized list. And then… the pasta aisle, where a tidy 40-ish mother smiled and chatted with four kids of varying ages spread out across the entire aisle. As I approached, hoping to squeeze past the pack to the spaghetti noodles, Mom tried to get all the kids moved to one side. I smiled at her and moved my cart to the other side – at which point the teenaged boy pushing the cart moved it to block my way. His (approximately) six-year-old brother with Down Syndrome put his hands on his hips and, with an exaggerated roll of his eyes, said, “Geez. The other side, dork.”

I just about lost it.

So I shifted back to the other side and slipped past. Mom said, nodding toward the teenager, “I don't know what his problem is. He has his driver's license.” I muttered something along the lines of, “Now that's scary.”

When I was ready to check out, I spotted a line where a very elderly lady was just wrapping it up. I unloaded my stuff and waited while the poor woman tried every way to swipe her credit card except the right one. Poor dear, all hunched over with osteoporosis. She finally got it sorted out and, as she shuffled away behind the bag boy pushing her carts, I thought, I should be so lucky as to be able to do my own shopping if I get to be her age.

I finished my own transaction and was pushing my cart across the parking lot when I spotted a shiny orange Corvette headed down the row toward me. As it passed, I noticed that the driver was the elderly woman from the checkout. She had her gangster lean on and one wrist draped across the top of the steering wheel!

I wonder… would a snazzy sports car help my back and neck problems? Maybe I can get my doctor to write me a prescription for Cooper Mini, or something.

 


Built to spill

By Foo
Did I miss the memo about today being National Spillage Day?* It's not even 7am yet, on my patch of the earth, and already I've seen two mini-BP events!

The first came when I stopped at Kroger to fill Dorian's tank with gasoline. The woman on the other side of the pump must have negotiating world peace on her iPhone and was distracted, because she didn't bother to shut off the pump before pulling the nozzle out. After hosing down the side of her SUV and the surrounding area with about a pint of premium, she grabbed as many paper towels as she could get her hands on, wiped down the side of her vehicle, and sped off.

And I've been known to get a scolding from a green-minded Californian for topping off!

When I arrived at the office, I shambled to the break room in search of something caffeinated. There I found my buddy George holding a wad of paper towels the size of my head and darting back and forth in front of the counter like a hyperactive hummingbird. I immediately recognized the signs of a coffee pot overflow cleanup effort and grabbed my own wad of paper towels.

So think twice before setting that double mocha latté between your elbow and your keyboard as you begin your day, today. I'm just sayin'.


* I mean, why not? There seems to be National [foo] Day for everything else, right?
 


Unexpected jewels

Category: , By Foo
Earlier this evening, Turtle did me a proper by scooping the cat box and leaving the contents in a plastic grocery bag by the kitchen door. A little later than that, I returned the favor by walking the bag out to the trash cart.

It was dark already, so I strapped an LED light to my forehead and made my way through the back yard and around the side of the house. As I walked, I noticed dozens of tiny emerald green lights sparkling in the grass. I stopped and squatted to take a closer look and was surprised to discover a spider! Then I stopped to look at a few more of the tiny green lights. Same thing.

I never would have guessed that spider eyes would reflect, just like those of dogs, cats, and other much larger creatures. How cool!

But I'm hardly the first to have discovered this phenomenon. When I googled spider eyes reflecting, I quickly discovered that this eye reflectivity is a common attribute of wolf spiders, as described in Wm. H. Amos' “Bright-Eyed Singers” and in the last couple paragraphs of “Recognizing Wolf Spiders” at accessexcellence.org.
 


Humble pie, no Reddi-wip

Category: , By Foo
I recently learned via Turtle that our neighbor across the street is recovering from cancer surgery. Yesterday, when I got home from work, the neighbors were just going in their front door, and from out of the blue came the thought that I should give my neighbor my yellow LiveStrong band as a show of solidarity.

My neighbor and I are not close. He doesn't acknowledge my greetings when we're out in our yards, and his grown children and their families practically live at his house, their vehicles lining the street. But I've learned to go with it, when I get these “random notions”, so I cleaned up the band (which I've been wearing on bike rides for a number of years) and walked it across the street to present it. His wife answered the door and called to him to come downstairs. After a couple minutes he appeared, and I stammered something about the history of the band and how I had made a habit of presenting them to fellow cancer patients and survivors since my own cancer nine years ago. My first yellow band was given to me by a mountain biker who had survived bladder cancer, and I passed that one on to a friend several years ago when she was fighting breast cancer. But I replace them and pass on whatever one I've been wearing.

There's a lesson to be learned from this sort of gesture, though. God encourages us to reach out to others but, I think, He's not so keen on us feeling too proud of ourselves for making them. As reinforcement of this lesson, my neighbor's response to all this was something along the lines of, “Uh… thanks. What's your name again?”

Here's your humble pie, Foo.

Randomness

I can't explain it, but every time I'm mowing and come to the northeast corner of the fence line in the back yard, the word Germany inexplicably forms in my mind (and sometimes Bismarck). What's up with that?