Stories: Low-Flying Ducks

Ten years ago I was working at my first job after college as a e-commerce web programmer.  I was excited to be making real money, real websites, and working with real tech people.  I learned a lot at that job, but one of the most important things I learned was that there is frequently no right or wrong answer, just a solution. One of our clients was Orange-Glo International; the folks who make OxyClean, and all sorts of citrus-based cleaners.  They had decided to install one of the first commercially available wifi systems on their office campus in Florida.  They brought in one of our network nerds, Bob, to make things work. Things seemed to be pretty cool, until one day Bob (therefore, we) got a phone call from Orange-Glo; their network went out.  But not only that, it went out at about the same time everyday.  Bob and his team went to work trying to figure out what was going on, and were largely vexed.  There was nothing technically wrong with their network, and they couldn’t duplicate the crash. There was no right answer. Until one day someone noticed that when a flock of ducks flew out of the pond in the middle of the campus, the network crashed.  Yeah, I’ll say it again; ducks flew by, then the network crashed. After some conversation, research and brainstorming, it was determined that the metal tags or radio transponders on the ducks’ ankles must be screwing up the wifi.  I’m not sure exactly how they figured that out.  But the fact that it happened at the same time everyday was...

Behold! Corbin, Destroyer of… Diapers.

I’m up in MI visiting my family for the holidays.  I miss them a lot.  Living in NC makes it a lot harder for me as a college student to make time (and air fare) to get up here.  I’ve missed out on so much stuff.  Specifically, my nephew is growing up. My sister and her husband work full time, so my mom watches “baby” Corbin most of the time.  He was a baby the last time I was here, but he’s a toddler now, what with all the toddling he seems to do.  Toddle.  Now that I use that word in a sentence, it seems like a pretty strange one.  Anyway, there’s this energetic and feisty young boy at the house everyday, and he’s family too. Yesterday I went to a thrift store here in town, so my mom and I bundled up Corbin and learned in a very real way that toddlers love crap.  They just love it.  The thrift store had a bed pan: there in a flash was Corbin.  There was one of those portable medical toilets too, and he had to get his hands in it. Toddlers also don’t particularly care about your schedule.  You can’t make them poop before the trip if they plan on saving up something special for during the trip. Yeah, hurray diapers. I also discovered that Corbin can talk, he just doesn’t have much to say.  He only knows a few words at this point, but he knows them, and he knows what they mean.  He just doesn’t feel compelled to use them.  But, that means he understands full...

Frosting Loaf

We do some pretty weird things in the name of Holidays.  And even when our intents are perfectly rational, our actions may not seem that way. For instance, the Christmas tree.  This year I shared the experience of getting a real tree with Anne Meade.  I’ve never gotten a real tree before.  We went out scouting for a tree for her living room, found a place and found the perfect tree.  Then we couldn’t find an actual human being to sell us the tree.  We went to a second place and had more luck.  The gentleman hauled our tree over to the tree bundler after he ran it through the tree shaker.  I was so fascinated that there was specialized equipment manufactured just for the Christmas tree trade.  Anne Meade and I were both fascinated with the tree shaker, a machine designed specifically to get rid of extra needles, and the guy smiled in response, saying, “I know, ain’t it cool?” We got the tree back to her place (The salesman actually delivered it; he took one look at my Camry and said it would be easier to just take it over than to try to tie it on top) and spent some time getting it set up in the stand.  We both stood back to survey our work.  Anne Meade said something about lights, and I said something about dinner.  I went into the kitchen and faked up some supper.  She meanwhile dug the lights out of the attic and started decorating the tree.  She stopped the decorating as soon as I came out of the kitchen with...

Jerry Claus

I met Santa.  At a Mexican restaurant. Anne Meade and I went out for dinner on Monday as we tried to figure out what to do with our slowly-dying road trip.  Our initial intention was to go to Asheville, but by the time I was free to travel, her friends had called to tell us that we couldn’t stay.  Not because we weren’t welcome, but because the snow had closed their driveway.  They couldn’t get their own vehicles up the mountain; my poor little Camry wasn’t really going to make it either. So we dropped back and punted, brainstormed, held a strategic planning session.  And went to Señor Bravo for Mexican food. We had been seated and were talking when the sweet (ish) strains of Christmas music filled the room.  A man with a white beard and a Santa hat was playing Frosty the Snowman on a harmonica.  He strolled around the place looking simultaneously jolly and homeless.  Anne Meade commented that he looked like Jerry Garcia.  I asked if he was supposed to be here, or if he was just some street person who snuck in on a covert mission to spread Holiday Cheer and harmonica. Jerry Claus came over to our table and asked if we had any requests.  I asked for Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and he gladly acquiesced.  After he was done he asked Anne Meade for a request, and she was largely speechless.  Which, if you know Anne Meade, is actually quite rare.  She eventually called for Joy to the World, or something like it, and he moved on. The restaurant was slow...

Sunday Afternoon on a Couch with a Flying Squirrel

Don’t ask me exactly how it happened.  Just know that it did, and it seemed completely reasonable at the time. I went over to Anne Meade’s house yesterday to hang Christmas lights.  But at some point in the afternoon I ended up barefoot in the snow wearing a knit hat pulled down past my eyes, and safety goggles over them, while wearing a name tag that said “Handy Dan.”  Anne Meade somehow ended up in a flying squirrel costume. I vaguely recall being handy.  That’s where the name tag came from.  Anne Meade’s doors and cupboards got painted shut, so I brought over a scraper and a bench plane to shave things down a bit.  She can get at her spices again.  And the doors all open and close gracefully.*  We actually managed to hang Christmas lights too, after numerous starts and grumblings about the cold. It was a good afternoon, full of good work, good food, and good company.** _______________ *Anne Meade has two of those doors that swing both ways in her kitchen.  Actually, one only LOOKED like it went both ways.  It used to, and I walked into it face-first and discovered to my chagrin that it NO LONGER did.  Thankfully Anne Meade wasn’t watching my most un-graceful of exits from the room.  But lest she discover that I’m horrendously uncouth, I fixed the door. ** Now that I think of it, I’m glad there are no pictures of my times over there; either running headlong into doors or wearing...