April 5, 2012

Said in our house last night

by Grongar, CC, via Flickr

I: Are you all ready for bed?

He: I'm all ready to start getting ready for bed.


March 28, 2012

A Risk of Losing Your Job

Reputo by xvaughanx, CC, via Flickr

When my company went through a massive layoff, they simultaneously beefed up security. I think they were worried about so many disgruntled former employees.

On the other hand, I have a friend who says that losing his job resulted in the most productive time of his life.

March 26, 2012

Canticle of a Vending Machine

by zoovroo, CC, via Flickr

As I stood before the candy machine, it occurred to me that my craving for something sweet to break up the day had turned into a bit of a religious ritual. I worshiped a false god, and this machine was it.

March 22, 2012

To: All Employees

This office rhyme was inspired when I was in the middle of writing an email. Like so many work emails mine was long and irrelevant and unclear.

I caught myself. If I had clicked Send, would anyone have bothered to respond?

March 17, 2012

Helicopter brains

My wife and children volunteer at a nearby hospital. Last Monday I pitched in. During a lull in the action, my 11-year old daughter and I took a walk around the hospital grounds.

We soon came to the helipad, where a helicopter had just landed.

“If you can wait ‘til I refuel,” called the pilot, “you can come in and look up close.”

A few minutes later I was seated in the cockpit. I tried to impress the pilot with my video-game-based knowledge of the vehicle, but I got the cyclic and the collective mixed up. One makes it go forward, and the other makes it go up or down.
Steve Gregory, CC, via Flickr

At least I think so. After that it didn’t seem right to ask him to let me fly.

I had made another mistake in telling my daughter that these helicopters mostly fly organ transplants. It turns out they don't, they just fly victims.

This misunderstanding resulted in a strange dialogue between my daughter and the pilot:

Daughter: So you carry body parts?

Pilot, looking slightly askance at this macabre child: Well, sometimes there are parts, yes. But usually the people are in one piece.

Daughter: Like a leg or something?

Pilot, apparently disturbed: Well, there was one time...a chainsaw accident...

Daughter, eagerly: Brains?

Pilot, hesitating: Er...yes. Sometimes I've seen brains.

Daughter, noticing a plastic container in the back: Are there brains back there now?

Pilot: Uh...no! We wipe down very carefully!

At this point the pilot turned to me. I perceived that too-familiar "You're the father. Do I need to report you to DCFS?" look, so we just thanked him and left.

March 14, 2012

Ice Fishing Comes First

The lovely spouse shared this story about 36 vehicles falling through the ice into Lake Winnebago, Wisconsin.

Vermont enjoyed a very mild winter this year, but a substantial snow finally fell last Friday. We rural yokels have to drive our trash to the dump. I was surprised while navigating the trash-laden SUV down the long driveway the following morning that Bum hadn’t come by with his plow yet.

“I wonder where Bum is?”

There is significant overlap...
My son agreed. “I thought he’d come as soon as the snow stopped. He hasn’t made much plowing money this year.”

Passing the lake, we saw dozens of pickups parked along the side of the road, on the beach, and all over the frozen surface.

Ah, yes. Earning $35 per driveway is a priority, but a fishing derby ranks higher.

March 13, 2012

How to use Creative Commons photos--at last!

I might just be a bit thick, but I spent many hours trying to figure out
the correct way to use a Creative Commons image on my blog. Can I copy it,
or do I have to link to it wherever it's hosted? Do I attribute just to
the photographer's name or to the website?

This old post from Librarian by Day Bobbi Newman seems to clear
everything up wonderfully.

March 3, 2012

Teaching by embarrassing example

Not only do I admire the integrity and courage of someone who openly
confesses a moment in which he embarrassed himself, but I pay more
attention to his message. Maybe this is what makes Jason at 37signals not just a successful business leader, but a teacher.

February 27, 2012

Piano Pieces of Flair

I think I just relived the flair scene from Office Space with my
11-year old over piano-practice this morning.

She was ripping through a fast passage in the middle of Clementi's
Sonatina in C when she suddenly shot up off the bench, shut the piano lid,
and walked away.

"Done practicing?" I asked.


"That was an abrupt finish."

"It was 45 minutes." She gestured to the clock on the piano. "The second
hand crossed the 12. That was 45 minutes."

"I see. And you didn't want to risk going more than 45 minutes? Like, in
order to finish the piece?"

"Ok. Ok, you want me to practice more than 45 minutes?"

"Well, 45 minutes is the minimum. Now it's up to you whether or not you
want to do just the bare minimum."

"Ok, so more then?"

"Playing piano should be a way to express yourself. Well, you want to
express yourself, don't you...?"

If I had to sum up parenthood in four words, they might be: "What have I

July 12, 2011

When my kids were six or seven, they turned into lawyers. When we planned anything, they needed to know the terms and conditions in advance.

It made my wife and me crazy.

They: Are we going out for ice cream?

We: I don’t know. We’ll see what time the recital lets out. If it’s not too late, we’ll get some ice cream to celebrate.

They: The recital will last only an hour and eight minutes.

(Are these crazily precise imagined measurements familiar to other parents? A new car costs seventy-two million, five-hundred dollars and twelve cents. That sort of thing.)

We: No, we don’t know how long the recital will last.

They: If we don’t get ice cream tonight, we’ll go out for ice cream tomorrow.

We: No, we didn’t say that.

They: I’m going to eat dessert now but if we go out for ice cream I can still have ice cream too, because I didn’t know now we were going to get ice cream.

We: No, if you have dessert now, that’s all your going to have. No ice cream.

They: Then if I don’t have dessert now and we don’t go out for ice cream, then I can have dessert when we come home.


I was at a software planning meeting today with a bunch of business people. The sort who make six-figure salaries but don’t know what we sell, who don’t wear ties but do sport the latest model iPhones.

They: We’ll support 110 countries in the September release. (I’m remembering the business-ese a little differently from how they said it: they call the countries locales and they call September Q3.)

We: We’re researching the countries now. We know we can support about 50, but the other half might be problematic.

They: So the other 60 will be supported at the start of Q4.

We: I don’t know. We’ll finish the background research in 2 days. We can tell you then.

They: So since you’re only supporting 50 countries, that will free up 5012 man-hours. That’s enough to deploy the Business Intelligence Fusion Engine in Q3.

We: (frantically multiplying in our heads): Where’d you come up with 5000? We don’t have that many hours in the whole quarter, do we? This is the first I’ve heard of this business...fusion...thing. What’s-

They: So you don’t need all 5012 hours. We'll streamline your team to optimize efficiency.

Somehow, it’s all the same. Sometimes you just don’t know yet how long the recital’s going to go, or whether the software will work in Lesotho.

Don't we all sometimes have to live with the unknown for a little while? Even the children and the MBAs?