Tuesday, July 29, 2008

More Brain Pain

A friend dropped by to visit me a few weeks ago, someone I've known since I was 11. I am unusually lucky, I think, to have a few life-long friends, people I've known since 5th, 6th, 7th grade that I am still close to. Anyway, he dropped by, and we had fast food and unhurried conversation. The conversation ranged over No Child Left Behind, salvation by grace, and economic theory. I was commenting on the fact that, contrary to the old saying (never trust a young conservative or an old liberal), I seemed to be getting a little more liberal in my old age.

He told me a story of when the first liberal seeds were planted in his heart. About 10 - 15 years ago, in the midst of an economic downturn, he happened to be the employment specialist for his local church. His assignment was to help those who needed it to find work; some he was able to help and some he wasn't. But he mentioned in one meeting that things must be tough for a lot of people. He had been walking in downtown Salt Lake City and had been approached by an unusually large number of people asking for money. And he let it slip that he had given them some.

The leader of the meeting immediately chided him for handing money to beggars, and began a recitation about how many of them had chosen that kind of life by their actions, and so forth. My guess is he eventually got around to the part about not giving people fishes but instead teaching them to fish.


Is anyone else feeling a little uncomfortable at this point? Anybody think that seems a little strange in a Christian church? Yeah, me too.

End of Intermission

My friend, to his credit, just let his eyes glaze over and started to think about the story of the Good Samaritan. But the seeds were planted. The Gospel of Utah Republicanism was never quite the same for him.

See, stuff like that makes my brain hurt. I happen to be familiar with this particular religious tradition, and I know there's a revered old King named Benjamin who had some fairly peppery advice for anyone who would say, "The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just."

Another thing that melts my Jello is that there is no way that guy could have provided any proof for what he said: how would he possibly know what those people had chosen or not chosen? How could he have known what was in the hearts and lives of so many people -- to say nothing of what was in my friend's heart? But that didn't keep him from spouting off the party line as though it was true beyond dispute. Alas, it is a common malady, even among people who should know better. In the words of Slim Pickins in Blazing Saddles, "I am depressed."

Mr. Electronics

Dave Barry once said he didn't believe in the molecular theory of matter until he got the Death Flu one winter, and was able to feel every individual air molecule bouncing off his skin.

Similarly, I have had a hard time believing in certain New Age ideas such as auras and energy fields that are supposed to surround all living things. But now I'm beginning to wonder. If such things do exist, I know that my own personal electromagnetic aura (his name is Ralph) kills semiconductors.

Oh, not immediately. That would be too easy. It's a slower, more painful process, spread out over the life of the extended one-year warranty.

I was reminded of this today as I was attempting to back up my small external hard drive to my medium external hard drive at work (obsessive, you say, backing up my backup? Anal retentive? YOU take Ralph for a while, then we'll talk). Every few minutes it would just quit. Power down. Stop. Kaput. In the middle of trying to transfer files. I was sure it was dead.

See, it would have been the fourth hard drive failure in the past 18 months for me. I had just broken in my new work computer last May when its hard drive failed and I had to re-load everything. My computer before that one also had a new hard drive because its first one failed. I had an external drive at home that quit, too. I managed to save most of that data after spending $80 and most of an evening. Cheap at the price. Today, I thought about trying to save the data on my small drive, too, but I would have had to spend another $80 because all that software and its license was saved -- let's see -- two hard drives ago.

Turns out it was just a bad USB connection. It behaved admirably once I bypassed the USB hub and plugged it directly into my laptop. But I was still shaky all afternoon.

Did I mention that after the disk crash on my latest computer, it only took a few weeks for some files to become corrupted and render my computer un-bootable? Yup. The files couldn't be repaired. Had to re-load everything.

Mr. S. Moosebutt claims that he can hear the PDA's screaming in pain as I walk past them in the university bookstore. He should know -- he's accompanied me for most of the "replace the PDA" runs I've had to make over the past few years. Although the Dell Axim performed well right up until two weeks after the one-year warranty expired, I find that Palm PDAs are good for an average of two repairs during their one year period of functionality. (Hint: always send the Palm PDAs to the repair center Registered Mail. One of mine was lost in transit, and never got the chance to die 10 days after the warranty expired. Sad, in a way. Moosebutt's theory is that it escaped from the truck somewhere near Tucson, and is living in sin with one of my old digital watches. They are currently plotting my death.)

This is a Palm pretending to have just
died, so that I will not take it home.

I should have seen it all coming. It wasn't too long ago that my watch was trying to escape. I had a metal watchband, held together by metal rods. To get a connecting rod out, you had to push really hard with a small pin or something. But routinely, as I would walk across campus, a rod would fall out and my watch would fall off.

I'm on my second watchband now. Its latch quit closing tight, but so far no escapes. Maybe when I turned fifty, Ralph lost a little mojo.

I'm holding my breath now, because I bought a new Blackberry and I really like it. It does everything I ask of it (except sync with Outlook using the Toshiba Bluetooth stack instead of the Windows Bluetooth stack -- Thanks, Blackberry folks!) and hasn't tried to escape even once. I'm cautiously optimistic, but do me one favor. If you see me walking across campus with my laptop case, please don't do anything to make Ralph angry.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Now Where Did I Put That Anthrax?

When I dropped Em off at the airport this morning for her trip to Madison, she paused for a moment just before entering the security checkpoint. She rustled around in her purse, saying, "Here, Dad, would you take these?" She then produced a smoke bomb and a box of matches.

Daughters. You gotta love 'em.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Good Luck, Loco Parents!

I'm sending my daughter off to Wisconsin for a while. Our good friends are going to be in loco parentis for about a month. They've already raised a girl-child through to adulthood, and she turned out to be a rugby-player, so you know they're going to be OK. But just in case they've forgotten, or (more likely) our model has a few quirks their model didn't, I have a few reminders.

1. Em communicates in a somewhat different language. To practice understanding her, take a typical Hawaiian word like Keinohoomanawanui, and say it over and over again as fast as you can. Amphetamines might help -- think "chipmunks." Anyway, when you can sing the entire Hawaiian national anthem in about 20 seconds, you'll have the basic idea. Skip over any vowels or consonants that slow you down -- most of them are not important. A schwa can replace any vowel, and a glottal stop works fine for most consonants. Oh, and do your best to start the sentence upstairs, and finish it downstairs -- or better yet, outside. Texting at the same time is optional, but can earn you valuable extra points, redeemable for lip gloss!

2. Em believes there is only one 8 o'clock each day, and it is NOT of the "AM" variety. She knows, technically, that the sun must come up each morning, but it has been years since she has actually seen it. She may take a swipe at you early in the morning if you get too close. Try tempting her our of hibertation with oatmeal. It sometimes works.

3. Em has been busy evolving some extra organs in her inner ear with small magnetic particles that will enable her to pick up text messages and log onto Facebook without cumbersome electronic equipment. Until she has fully evolved, she may still need computer and cell phone access. Like, 24/7.

4. For reasons that are not exactly clear, Em and her friends like to engage in flour fights and whipped cream fights. Keep a hose handy in the back yard, and buy a little extra laundry soap. She is likely to appear at your door white and sticky.

5. The good news is, she eats almost anything as long as it's "good" and not "gross." So following that simple rule will avoid any difficulties.

Well, that's about it. She's really a delightful child, and we will miss her. While she's gone, her little sister will have to fill in for her. Just the other day, we had to tell her to get off the computer and speak slowly. She should do fine.

And to D & S: Thanks for being Em's Loco Parents, and Good Luck. You have our number.