Objects and methods

Amongst the crawlspace treasure trove I found a series of slides I’d made for a work presentation sometime in the late 90’s. I think it was for an object-oriented programming class I was either taking or teaching, because it includes references to objects (representations of physical things in software) and methods (representations of actions done to those things).

Words can’t fully describe it, so here is the series of slides. It’s important to note they were, in fact, done in crayon.

There was a corresponding set of transparencies for each of these, which clearly meant it was an official presentation of some kind. Alex saw them and was amazed. “I know what those are! You put them on a big light box and it projects them onto the wall!” Yeah, kid, those were the days.

I also explained to Alex that sometimes, in Corporate America, it’s completely appropriate (and, one might argue, necessary) to step outside the box and give a professional presentation in crayon.

Crawlspace

Earlier this year, La and I cleared out dozens of boxes from our crawlspace as we started our journey of “de-cluttering” the house. A few months later, I dumped thousands of dollars’ worth of old computer equipment. Today, as we were putting away our Christmas things, Laralee decided to empty the entire crawlspace and start tossing the old unused stuff we’ve accumulated.

I claimed six of the boxes:

… And then spent the rest of the afternoon going through them. It was an amazing treasure trove of Why the Heck Did I Keep This…

Consider, for example, the user manual (100+ pages!) for some software I worked on at Raytheon in 1997:

Of course I needed to save hundreds of expense reports where I’d requested reimbursements for company travel in 1999:

There must’ve been a hundred manila folders with stuff like this in them. I laughed when I saw this particular one:

Yep, that pretty much described its contents, as well as the rest of the box. I loved finding my VAX mainframe account setup form, which I filled out on my first day of work out of college:

I enjoyed seeing a quote for a Silicon Graphics computer I’d requisitioned a few years after that. Notice the price tag: thirty-five thousand dollars, and that’s with a substantial discount. Because hey, graphics cards weren’t cheap in 1998.

There was also a smattering of cool stuff, like dozens of pages where I’d worked out the math for orbital dynamics calculations. Here’s one where I calculated the effects of a nuclear blast on the Van Allen radiation belts, using a simplified cubic spline approach:

Or some matrix algebra to handle conversions between celestial coordinate systems:

I actually used to know what this stuff meant!

Anyway, by the end of the afternoon I had a stack of paper three feet high that could be recycled. And that was just two of the boxes. I still have to crack open the others! But that’s for another day…

The little things in life

Nothing’s quite as nice as opening a new container of Carmex.

Someone once told me Carmex is like “crack for lips”. Maybe so, but wow, it’s so nice not to have to dig around the bottom of the container to get a little bit of it. These things last me about a year, I think, so it’s rare to enjoy this feeling. I guess I’ll savor it…

Classic

Christmas break has been a great opportunity to relax a bit, and as part of that, last night I was tinkering around with some stuff on the computer and thought I’d fire up an old copy of DOSBox. DOSBox is a program that allows one to run really old MS-DOS applications on a modern computer. It’s a pretty clever emulator, and it means the ancient classic games I played as a kid can be resurrected.

After a few quick internet searches, I found copies of Lode Runner and Night Mission Pinball. These were two of my favorite games as a kid.

Behold Lode Runner:

Thom and I would spend hours working on beating the levels (there are 150), and then we started making our own. Lode Runner was one of the first games– maybe the first game– to allow you to modify it. We had a great time coming up with clever tricks and traps to make our levels difficult.

Then there was Night Mission Pinball:

I can’t even count the number of hours Dirk and I spent on this game. For whatever reason, it was wicked fun. It had a horrible droning noise in the background though– I guess it was supposed to simulate the hum of a real pinball game. It was bad enough that I eventually de-compiled the assembly code for the game and hacked a few bytes to remove the droning sound. Yeah, geeky.

Anyway, it was a blast to spend a little time playing these classic and reminiscing about those good times… 30+ years ago…

Champs

I started out 2017 with three consecutive ultimate championships: indoor league, spring outdoor league, and the Memorial Day tournament. Every season is, of course, a completely different team, which makes it even more fun.

My summer league team came close to winning with a second-place finish, but then my fall league team had the worst record I’ve ever endured, losing all but two games in the season (but somehow managing to be absolutely the most fun team I’ve ever been on).

Well, I managed to wrap up the year with one last championship, this time in the Royal Rumble indoor tournament.

I had a great team and in the preliminaries we played some close games, but then in the championship game something clicked and we completely dominated. It was one of those “leave no doubt” moments, and a really fun group of players.

2017 championship bookends!

Yum

Zaque was at a friend’s house today and I guess they were short of ideas for lunch, so he said he poured himself a bowl of milk and added a bit of cereal to it. He called it “creme bru-let’s find something else to eat”. For some reason that cracked me up.

Thought Monkeys LLC

Many years ago– fourteen, to be exact– I came up with a great name for a business: Thought Monkeys. Through the years I had some fun with it, even registering a domain name and receiving official letters addressed to a fictitious company.

But a couple of weeks ago, I actually created a company called Thought Monkeys LLC. Yep, it’s real and official and even has a federal tax number.

Why, you ask? Because I talked to a lawyer who recommended I make some changes to my financial holdings (stocks, really) and said the best approach is to create an LLC. Since it really doesn’t matter at all what the company is called, as long as it’s an official LLC, I seized the opportunity.

Imagine my pleasure when I logged into my brokerage portal and saw my new account.

(In all caps, no less!)

Who knew the world of finance could be so much childish fun?

Christmas!

Another year has come and gone, and we managed to have a great time on Christmas.

It started when Zaque’s friend Ma’ata gave him a miniature “finger horse”.

What’s hilarious about this is it’s exactly what Zaque wanted, and he hadn’t said anything to her. Rather, she commented to him that she’d seen it in a store and thought it would be perfect. Yep, she knows him well.

See my joy at opening a Jack Sparrow bobble-head. I mean, who wouldn’t want something like that?

Continuing a long-standing tradition, I gave Laralee some office supplies. Yeah, that’s how much the love of my life means to me. This year it was scissors (only the best: titanium blades!) and a mousepad.

Zaque loved his Bob Ross shirt:

And Alex thought the Mr. Peanut shirt was an absolute riot:

Kathy replenished my supply of CoCo Wheats, which aren’t available in Colorado and have to be imported from Missouri.

The most-anticipated gift on Zaque’s list was, of course, “fingers for fingers”, which he put to hilarious use throughout the day.

He was also thrilled to open a heavy package (because heavy means it’s awesome, right?) and discover a 13-pound bag of baking soda. I’d put it there to fool him, of course, and hide the nature of the true gift: dress socks.

Upon opening another gift from Kathy, La was excited by the note that read, “This was the most beautiful thing I saw at the art fair”. A box of tuna and chicken lickable bisque treats!

After we finished opening gifts, we played my new card game, Exploding Kittens. It’s simple but a lot of fun.

… and it involves a lot of tension when drawing cards. “Will I get the exploding kitten?”

We wrapped up with a video call to Kyra, who’s serving her mission in California. It was good to talk to her (and see her) after the many months she’s been gone.

All in all, it was another good Christmas and a good year.

It is too a Christmas movie

It seems like every year, Laralee and I continue two long-standing disagreements revolving around Christmas:

1) I can’t believe the LDS Church changed the lyrics of “Joy to the World”, thus ruining my second-favorite Christmas hymn. (“Just let it go already” is what she tells me, every year.)

2) Die Hard is indeed a Christmas movie.

On that latter point, she argues that just because the movie takes place during the Christmas season, that doesn’t make it a Christmas movie. It’s certainly not like It’s a Wonderful Life or How the Grinch Stole Christmas or even such questionable “classics” as Elf and Home Alone. Yet, in countless internet surveys over the years, you’ll find Die Hard consistently listed in the top ten Christmas movies of all time.

Evidence: the Nakatomi Plaza gingerbread tower:

Or some Nakatomi-themed Christmas cards:

(I need to remember these the next time I throw a Christmas party– classic.)

And even the Christmas card idea I stumbled across a few months ago:

Yes, so many things prove that the movie is, indeed, a Christmas movie. I guess La and I will just have to continue to agree to disagree…

Doobie

This evening, Alex and Zaque were talking about an upcoming Dungeons and Dragons campaign. Apparently Zaque has a character who is a house elf named Doobie. He has no strength and virtually no charisma, but is apparently quite powerful because he can apparate (teleport, in Harry Potter speak). He also has an enchanted tube sock that makes him invincible. In the last campaign Zaque was in, Doobie was in a bad situation and decided to teleport away, but ended up apparating right out a window and falling to his death.

Yep, this is the kind of stuff my boys do.

White Christmas

This morning we woke up to a bit of white in our trees…

There’s some pretty impressive work, thirty feet up in the big tree. But there are also signs of amateurs at work, because they left about a dozen mostly-full rolls of toilet paper on the ground… perfect for us to use in our revenge. Now we just need to figure out who the culprits are…

The beard

On his mission, Alex wasn’t allowed to have facial hair. He’ll be leaving for BYU in a few weeks, where beards are forbidden (mustaches are okay, but they’re definitely not in vogue). So, in these few weeks, he’s decided to grow a bit of a beard. Here’s the progress:

Like me, he doesn’t get much action along the lines of his jaw, and I guess above his lip it’s all blond hair that really doesn’t show. So he decided to just keep the fuzz along the bottom of his chin. It’ll be interesting to see how far along this gets before he has to shave for school.

“I’m not that hungry”

How many kids have turned up their noses at dinners they didn’t like, and then given the excuse they’re “not that hungry” so they won’t eat it? Zaque is a master, as evidenced by a recent dinner:

As Yoda famously said to Luke, “How you get so big, eating food of this kind?” I have no idea how Zaque is the size he is, since he rarely has much dinner…

American health care sucks

At Zing we’re talking about changes to our employee health-care program, and at the same time I’m watching the slowly-unfolding train wreck that is the Republicans’ tax bill, all the while tracking the unbelievable increase in health insurance premiums from year to year.

That’s why this quote by Cory Doctorow resonated with me:

For-profit healthcare is a disaster at every level, from insurers to hospitals to doctors’ practices to the pharmaceutical industry. That’s why Americans spend more per capita to receive worse care that produces worse outcomes than anyone else in the developed world, where socialized and regulated medicine are the norm.

Although I understand there are drawbacks to fully socialized health care, I can’t believe people still think the American health care system is reasonable.

(Oh, wait, the people who do think that are the ones who stand to profit from it! Of course…)

Desktop inception

So the movie Inception is not only good, but it’s perfect for jokes involving multiple layers of things. This morning I was in a conference call and we were sharing screens with one another. At one point my screen showed his screen, which was showing my screen, and we were off to the races.

Here’s the craziness that ensued:

If I hadn’t switched to a different window, it might’ve caused a rip in the fabric of space-time or something. Whew!

The tradition continues

I’ve been sending Christmas cards to family and friends since 1995, and the scale of the effort continues to grow each year. This year’s list of recipients is just shy of 350, which of course means a lot of printing and envelopes and postage. It’s quite a production, and one which has consumed the past few weekends.

For many years, I would put together elaborate newsletters and photo collages and that sort of thing. One fateful year– 2009, to be exact– I was doing my usual work on our card, and came up with the design we’d send to the printing company.

That looks pretty good, right? Well, when I was taking the pictures, I mentioned that we should all make a goofy pose. We did, and I tested it on the card layout:

The kids absolutely loved it. They thought it would be so funny to send this as our annual card. So, okay, I did. I was (pleasantly) surprised at the number of people who mentioned how much they enjoyed our irreverence.

Thus, the tradition was born. The next year I wondered what we could add to our funny faces. The answer: head over to Target and have everyone pick out a hat to wear. We stood in the store, trying on hats, and eventually asked a customer to take our picture. That was an interesting conversation.

A year later, I thought we should stand in a circle looking down at a camera on the floor. (I admit, it wasn’t one of my most creative moments.)

In 2012 I decided we should take a serious family portrait– the kind of thing you’d buy at Olan Mills or some other professional studio. But I wanted to add something completely unexpected. After a bit of thought, it came to me. Wigs. This drew rave comments from a lot of friends, and remains one of my favorite cards. It’s mostly because of the way Zack looks.

My office has a lot of huge glass walls, and I figured we’d see what it looks like to mash our faces against glass and take a picture. The result wasn’t quite as funny as it seemed in my mind, and I ended up doing a lot of work to remove glare from the photo.

2014 was the year our Christmas cards went from an amusing anecdote amongst friends to the stuff of legend. For whatever reason, people loved the “Jurassic Park” idea. Even now, years later, I have friends who tell me how their kids talk about that card. I know people who still have this card on their refrigerator. Yes, really.

Inspired by the previous idea of combining our family with popular media, I decided to capitalize on the hysteria surrounding the newest Star Wars movie. As it turns out, it’s much more difficult than I expected to combine our faces with a movie poster. In addition, Alex was serving his mission in Peru so I couldn’t get a photo of him specifically for the pose I needed. That said, it turned out pretty good.

In 2016, I wanted to do something that combined our card with a web site. What sort of thing might have a multimedia tie-in? Music, of course! But we’re not a musical family at all (with the notable exception of Kyra and her flute), so whatever music we included would probably be bad. Well, why not make it really bad, then? The answer was obvious: kazoos. I opted for a serious take on a kazoo orchestra, and we all dressed up and tried to look serious. In truth, this “photo shoot” had me laughing so hard I was crying at points. We have some hilarious outtakes. And I built a web site, complete with audio clips and biographies of the orchestra members. Even Alex, still off in Peru, was mentioned as an absentee member. The site allowed people to comment, which was fun. This project definitely took longer than any previous card, but it was a blast.

This year I had a complete dearth of creativity. Thanksgiving had come and gone, and still I didn’t know what to do, but with some input from the team (well, Alex), it came together. It’s not my finest work, but I hope it’ll be a hit.