You mess with Harpo Marx, you get the horns.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

I think we forgot the particle accelerator.

Well, I have no idea where Stew is. The last time I saw him was Tuesday at lunch, and before that Sunday at church, and before that Saturday on the links where he was using a Callaway demo driver to launch drives down the fairway the way the U.S. Air Force launches Delta rockets. He was literally hitting drives in the 285 - 300 yd. range and throughout the subsequent meetings listed above would occasionally drift off into thought, muttering something about installment plans, bank loans, and cashing in his life insurance equity.

So I imagine his absence here is due not to the dreaded ISO 9,000,551, or whatever it's called, but instead is the product of desperate attempts to raise cash or to sweet-talk Mrs. Miller into taking a second job to support his new habit of impersonating Tiger Woods with a 3-Wood.

In the meantime, I've hardly had the time to tell you much about my week, other than the bit about the software collapse and my subsequent nervous breakdown. Fortunately, the local off-licence had some Fat Tire ale available last night and my nerves have calmed considerably. (It only took one beer. Earl Fando drinks responsibly!)

However, for all the stress of that, which I'm sure I will unload on you in due time as this is much cheaper than threapy, the most complex task of the week was The Littlest Fando's school presentation on ice cream. Mrs. Fando and I helped our loveable bairn prepare for her big day and let me just say it was a completely rewarding and memorable family experience.

I am of course leaving out the living hell which is our modern American schools' insistence that elementary school presentations be of the quality of those at an Apple shareholders' meeting. The expectation is partly fueled by a insanely overinflated sense of competition amongst the parents themselves, all of whom seem to be attempting to compensate for their own feelings of diminished self-esteem by demonstrating that their child is the brightest and best of all humanity because they can convince their parents to work like maniacs on a project that will be briefly viewed by 20 disinterested children and one very bored teacher, feigning utter smarmy fascination.

In fact, the general image one gets of the school project is like the penultamate scene of an old A-Team episode, that of one or two parents hammering and sawing away at display boards, soldering metal frameworks together, spray-painting backdrops, armouring the tank, jury-rigging a flamethrower, and agitatedly typing away at extensive Presidential-length speeches on the eating habits of Lewis and Clark (and Sacagawea)... all whilst their children look on bemusedly, wondering whether their parents are secretly overdosing on caffeine while they're away at work each day.

The results usually look as follows:

Then the kid says something like, "Oh, I was just going to show the class this Sacagawea dollar and pass out some Teriyaki beef jerky." Well little Billy, just what am I supposed to do with this flamethrower?

However, being the highly ethical parents we are though, we insisted that The Littlest Fando carry her fair share of the load. She helped look up the pictures, laid down the first coat of paint for her sign (All right, I finished it up, but it's one of the rare chances I have to put my art degree to work), and filled out all of her note cards for the speech that she wrote (and Mrs. Fando extensively edited). We also made her rehearse the speech, only without the portable microphone, PowerPoint presentation, and formal business attire.

Then came the part where TLF and Mrs. Fando put together the ice cream making demonstration involving a pint of cream, a large quantity of salt, ice, and the owners of Ben and Jerry's dancing the polka in lederhosen. I'm not sure whether they ever managed to get that last bit, as I was vigourously painting at the time. I could have sworn I heard accordion music, though.

The display board was the most challenging part as everything has to be glued or taped to the board. Those who know me are well aware that glue and I, in some bizarre defiance of universal laws of adhesive physics, do not go together.

As an aside, my mum is quite skilled with sellotape. Inside of 120 seconds, she can tape a package so securely that it takes the jaws of life to open it. (This makes Christmas quite exciting, what with the first responders, fire lorries, and all.) Each year, the nice people at Scotch tape company sit around in their brightly-colored, faux-Gordon clan tartan kilts, waiting for the 350% increase in tape sales the moment my mum hits the Hobby Lobby. I have occasionally suggested that she would be an ideal sellotape quality control inspector for them, but then she would blow her entire annual salary in an afternoon in the company shop.

Anyway, as I therefore have a natural, DNA-provided affinity for tape, that always strikes me as the way to go. Mrs. Fando though insists on glue, because damn it, that's what we do in public schools...we glue things! So afterwards, instead of tape stuck all over our bums and elbows, we have numerous flecks of dried Elmer's glue that turn up around the house for weeks on end. The other downside is that the glue smears on the board if you put too much, which I always do, subconsciously applying me mum's sellotape strategies to the paste. While on the positive side this does provide an interesting bright sheen to the board, it also makes the teacher incredibly paranoid that my child's fellow students are surreptiously wiping their bogies on The Littlest Fando's presentation.

So, all in all it was an extraordinary, electrifying, excrutiating experience. I'm just glad it wasn't a science project. I just know I'm going to wind up with burns from one of those.

Next week however, she's presenting on Eleanor Roosevelt. This leads me to one inescapeable question:

Does anyone out there know if one can easily recreate the White House Dining Room using toothpicks and construction paper?

Cruise Sickened by Placenta Chowder!

All right, I was kidding about the whole "Cruise placenta food poisoning thing." Admit it though, you believed it for just a second, perhaps even a full minute.

Some of you still believe it, even though I just told you I made it up. It's simply too realistic sounding to easily dismiss. If I'd thrown "space aliens" and "cranial energy projections" into the comment, I might very well have started an entire conspiracy theory industry. Even now, the Weekly World News is probably setting up a front page based on this very story. If only I could get a byline.

It's been a hectic week, and I apologise for the dearth of posts. We shall endeavor to do better. We shall post on the hills, on the mountains, the coasts, the little Internet cafe down the street from Buckingham (morning all), at work when no one's looking (I'm kidding!), and on other occasions where we're bored.

So hang in there. Stuff's on the way. No promises about the quality though...

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Welcome to Computer Hell

In case you've been wondering why I haven't posted in the last few days, for the last 26 hours I've been in the land of Computer Hell. A server at work has failed, one that just happen to have all the data for the application I administrate.

Imagine a tree falling in the forest. The tree lands on the foot of a lone traveler. The traveler screams in pain. There are many expletives.

I am that traveler.

The worst part is that the application we're trying to get working stores data in a very peculiar way. Instead of a set database that can be easily backed up and supported, this programme stores data in a variety of files that are linked together in some way or another. So if there is any file corruption or errors, the programme in Windows that fixes this, CHKDSK, might damage files in the application so that the links between them don't work.

This is what in the computer world is known as a "bad idea."

Actually, if you ask someone directly, they'll tell you it's known as a "*%#$@&! *&%$@#?! bad idea!"

Oh, and our backup system hasn't been working properly.

Please someone sponsor this blog for some outlandish sum of money so I can do this full time and not what I'm doing now.

Is fantasy one of the stages of grief?

Anyway, I may get to post again this evening. I have many things I want to write about: Anthropomorphic Restaurant characters, children's school projects, Tom Cruise getting food poisoning from placenta, why computer programmers should be subject to corporal punishment, etc.


Sunday, April 23, 2006

Would you care for a jelly baby? Pop tart? Shot of rum?

Living in the U.S. does have a few meager downsides. One of them, is that we are well behind the times on the revivial of Doctor Who.

All those who didn't think I was a geek until now, please raise your hands. Anyone? Well then, I'll continue.

Seriously, the Doctor is back, sort of. The popular BBC children's series, which really has had an appeal to people of many ages, because many adult people love science-fiction (Really, it's not just a kiddie thing! Pleanty of adults are into it! Stop chuckling!), and because the programme is really funny in a low-grade, ridiciulous, "Can we really get away with this?" sort of way.

Anyway, the series went off the air back in 1989 and stayed off, except for a fairly cheesy made for television film in 1996, starring Willy Wonka as The Doctor. Just last year it returned with Christopher Eccelston in the title role, and David Tennant (named after the Scottish lager) took over the role for the 2006 series.

Of course the real Doctor looks on all the television programmes with a kind of detached bemusement, and some bitterness over the fact that the BBC does not provide him with residuals, and that he can't sue because he has no legal standing as an illegal alien. I talked with him about this and a few other things.


Earl: Doctor, I'd like to thank you for allowing me to interview you, right here in the TARDIS.

The Doctor: Yes, my pleasure. Some Jelly Babies perhaps?

Earl: Certainly.

The Doctor: Take them all. I can't stand the things. (Opens a Crunchie bar and starts to eat it)

Earl: (Looking around) It really is bigger on the inside than the outside! Time in Relative Dimensions in Space, yes?

The Doctor: (Yawns) If you say so. Actually, we just backed the police box against a building and cut a hole in the wall.

Earl: You mean we're not in the actual TARDIS.

The Doctor: Heavens no. It's sitting over there in the sugar bowl.

Earl: The sugar bowl? However did it fit?

The Doctor: Listen, if I can fit a gigantic spaceship into a police telephone box, I can squeeze that police box into a sugar bowl. Trust me on this, mate.

Earl: Care to explain the science behind that?

The Doctor: It'd only make your head explode into a quadrillion pieces.

Earl: Fair enough. Moving on, when did you leave Galifrey to go on the run?

The Doctor: Well, actually I'm not on the run. I'm on holiday.

Earl: Holiday? What about the whole, "Stole the TARDIS and is out exploring the universe" bit?

The Doctor: It's an urban legend. It's all over the Internet.

Earl: Wait a tick. That's been the programme's storyline since the 1960s. How could an Internet urban legend get into a programme three decades prior?

The Doctor: What about time travel do you not understand?

Earl: Plenty, apparently. So you've been on holiday for 40 years?

The Doctor: It's all relative. I'll outlive you by about 700 years. So, what's 40 for holiday?

Earl: Tell me, do you travel with a companion, like your counterpart on the series?

The Doctor: Sometimes. It all depends on if I can pick up any birds in the pub that evening.

Earl: I thought the companion was supposed to be a loyal female friend with whom there was only the subtlest suspicion of romantic involvement, without anything ever being explicitly established.

The Doctor: That's fine for a children's programme, but the Doctor needs a little more than an attractive stooge to bounce amasing facts and figures off of. You spend several hundred years in a gigantic cold, police box-shaped space capsule and see how you feel. It's like getting out of prison sometimes. I'm all over anything with a bosom and a skirt. Having two hearts means the Doctor is a bit more, erm...frisky.

Earl: Apparently so. What about the male companions on the programme? Do you ever have male companions?

The Doctor: Do I look like I'm wearing a cowboy hat to you? If you want to go Brokeback Mountain with an interview, go and chat with the cast of Blake's 7.

Earl: Doctor, finally a little word association. Time travel.

The Doctor: Boring

Earl: Companion you'd choose?

The Doctor: Grace Kelly

Earl: Hasn't she passed on?

The Doctor: (Shaking head) T - I - M - E -T- R - A...

Earl: Oops, forgot about that. Tell her I said hello.

The Doctor: Oh, of course.

Earl: Favourite food?

The Doctor: Anything but Jelly Babies.

Earl: Favourite Drink?

The Doctor: Rum, Scotch, Gin, Bourbon.

Earl: Which one?

The Doctor: That is the one drink.

Earl: Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart

The Doctor: General Jack Ripper from Dr. Strangelove

Earl: Daleks

The Doctor: Snooker cheats

Earl: BBC

The Doctor: Toast, as of 2024, when Jo Rowling takes control of the government and renames it to "Jo TV."

Earl: How often do people ask you for medical opnions?

The Doctor: Not as much as you think. The scarf and waders usually convince people that I'm some sort of veternarian.

Earl: What about the Sonic Screwdriver?

The Doctor: That? I've got it right here. (Pulls out a doohickey with a flashing light at the end of it)

Earl: Impressive... I suppose. What all can it do?

The Doctor: It can open any lock, disrupt wireless transmissions for a radius of 100 kilometers, and access any information source on the planet, from computers to cellphones...

Earl: I suppose you were the one to crack Paris Hilton's mobile phone?

The Doctor: I was bored. I've got the photos and numbers here, if you like?

Earl: Thanks, but my life is complicated enough. Anyway, you were saying?

The Doctor: It also can unscrew any type of bolt or screw...

Earl: (Under breath) Amazing!

The Doctor: ...and has this as well. (He presses a button and a small corkscrew pops out of the end of the Sonic Screwdriver.) Whoops! (He presses another button and a small piece of metal pops out instead.)

Earl: A USB connection?

The Doctor: Yes. Of course, I've got an old serial adapter. but it's quite burdensome to deal with.

Earl: No wonder you skipped the nineties. Tell me, why do you call it the "Sonic Screwdriver," because it uses sonic vibrations?

The Doctor: It was the name of my favourite cocktail back home on Gallifrey.

Earl: Why not? Listen, our time is almost up, but could you tell me anything about my future?

The Doctor: (Goes into a kind of trance) Your blog will become incredibly popular. People will turn to you for advice and amusement. They will become desperately addicted to you. They will elevate you to political and economic power. Soon, you will rule the industrialized world.

Earl: Hmmm... I suppose we should be more ambitious with the guests in future then?

The Doctor: I suppose you shouldn't take everything I say seriously. The truth is that Jorge Carlito Viejo does a leveraged buyout of your blog in 2013 and sells it to Lemony Snicket for a case of Aero bars.

Earl: Well, I suppose the upside is that's more than I'd pay.