Sunday, February 26, 2006

There's going to be a delay. I have a post mostly written, I just don't have the time to type it here just yet. Check back tomorrow or Tuesday.

Sunday, February 19, 2006


This is a big theme of mine, yet it's so hard to do. Humans get on autopilot so easily. We also make assumptions we never realize we're making. We spend our time focused on solving a problem without considering the larger context in which that problem exists. It is very difficult to objectively examine one's actions when the very basis of that examination is flawed.

I have to get on the highway to go to work. The actual getting on the highway part isn't so bad. Getting onto the entrance ramp itself, however, is ugly. You enter from the left and have to yield to traffic coming in from the right, and not just coming in from the right, but coming from below and behind. Cars appear out of nowhere (don't even get me started about springtime when the grass starts to grow high). Plus there are two lanes and it's very difficult to tell if the car coming up is in your lane or the other one. You can think you've got a clear sail to the end of the ramp when suddenly there's someone in the lane you want to merge into, then you have to slam on your brakes and pray the guy behind you is paying attention (they have been, thank goodness) and even realizes that this lane is the one yielding. The county added another sign recently to emphasize this point, but people still get confused - I get honked at fairly often for waiting at the yield sign. You could look over your shoulder ahead of time, but that's a heck of a look. Take too long and you'll rear end the guy stopped at the yield sign (I've almost rear ended three different people this way). Even when you're stopped and waiting you have to be careful. I once almost drove into the guy in front of me because between the time I'd seen him start to pull off and the time I decided to go, he decided he didn't have room.

I call this merge the Merge of Death. It's an appropriate name. So why then am I still using it? I mean, for goodness sake, I call it the Merge of Death! That should be a big warning sign right there. Nope. I complain about it. I get frustrated by it, stressed by it, and occasionally terrorized by it. Yet, until about a week ago it never occurred to me that I did not have to use it. I can think of two other exits not much further away that are much easier and safer to use. I use them now, but for the past year I've been using the Merge of Death. A year full of close calls and near misses. A year of calling it the Merge of Death, of praying nobody follows me onto the ramp, of feeling palpable relief when I get on smoothly. I've been lucky and I recognize that now. I'm not going to use it again.

For a year I spent my time figuring out how to best get onto that ramp safely. I never took that step back to consider that it might be safer just to not use the ramp at all. I was thinking about what I was doing, I just wasn't thinking wide enough. Merge of Death... sheesh.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


My five year college reunion is coming up this year, so I'm constantly receiving all sorts of flyers and emails reminding me that college was the bestest time of my life and if I want to experience even a sliver of joy ever again, I have to pay them money and participate in their weekend events this June. I'm going to do just that because, cynicism and sarcasm aside, I had a blast at college. I'm not so foolish as to consider them the halcyon days of joy and rapture, I did not experience a state of exaltation never to be repeated again, nor will I live my life in a cloud of misery and disappointment believing I can never again achieve such happiness as I found there and then. I will, however, remember those days fondly and repeat many of my stories from that time. Because hey, they were pretty funny (or, in some cases, have become funny since time stepped between us and blurred the details a little). With that in mind, expect a number of college tales over the next few months. Not ALL college stories, of course, I am doing other things with my life now, but a goodly number (and they will be largely the goodly ones, after all my parents read this column).

That said, let us begin:

My first year of college I lived in a suite with nine other guys. We had a brother suite, watched over by the same RA. We were (by dint of our room numbers) the One-Tens, they were the One-Twenties.

Our story starts on a warm fall night when two members of the One-Twenties strode into our suite and tossed a fencing glove on the floor, thus throwing down the gauntlet and formally challenging us to a duel, laser-tag guns at 8pm in two weeks time (not as catchy as pistols at dawn, but who was going to get up at dawn on a college campus?). This was an RA sponsored event, well our RA was kind of lazy so it was all the One-Twenties doing, he just arranged for RA program to pay for it.

There weren't enough people available in our two suites, so we each recruited others for our teams. My suite contained six engineers and the One-Twenties contained none, so the teams largely formed along school lines (and by schools I mean the School of Engineering and Applied Science, referred to as the E-School and the College of Arts and Sciences, generally referred to simply as The College). This wasn't surprising considering how much trash talking went on between the two schools anyway. They called us Enginerds, we labeled their school the College of Arts and Crafts and referred to their classes as Basketweaving. The impending laser tag battle merely gave us a focus for our jibes. It was all friendly of course. There was little real animosity. We all liked each other, actually. (After all they knew deep down that the world needs engineers and deep down we appreciated the value of a good basket).

The day of the battle we all had a good time (especially the engineers since we trounced the One-Twenties and their allies) and afterwards everyone agreed that the One-Twenties had done well to coerce our RA into "running" such an event.

Apparently, however, defeat stung. The next year the One-Twenties challenged us again, although this time they changed the battlefield. For one thing, the original dormmates had scattered and we couldn't raise a large enough group for laser tag. For another thing, the RA wasn't paying for it this time.

So instead the former members of the One-Twenties challenged us to a few rounds of Starcraft. For those of you unfamiliar by Starcraft, it is a Real Time Strategy game. The player is responsible for managing producing and directing military units, building defensive and supportive structures, and gathering resources.

That's right, the College students challenged the Engineers to a VIDEO GAME. To this day I'm still not sure what they were thinking. Okay, so one of those College students was really a Computer Science major (whether he admitted it or not) but that didn't help them. We did try to warn them, but they wouldn't hear us.

It took us three minutes to whipe them out the first round. At this point they might have realized they were out of their league, but they tried again anyway. This time they requested what they thought was a handicap. They asked that we give them ten minutes to build up before we attacked their bases. The second round was over in twelve. (We had their bases surrounded in six and spent the rest of the time waiting, watching, and building more units to add to the pile - at ten minutes exactly we stepped in).

There was no third game, nor did the One-Twenties challenge us again. But really, challenging engineers to a video game? That's like challenging a shark to a swimming competition. There's no way it can end well for you.

Speaking as the shark, though, I had a good time.

Sunday, February 05, 2006


DC Winter is a tease. I've met several other members of the Winter family and they're generally a pretty straightforward bunch. New England Winter, for example, is very serious about his job. New York Winter is very like his brother. When either of them visits, you know you're dealing with a Winter. Florida Winter, on the other hand, married into the Winters from the Spring family. She never really took to the Winters' way of doing things and has never claimed otherwise. She's not really a Winter, but she's honest about it.

DC Winter, though, is something else entirely. She's all hot and cold and completely unpredictable. It's enough to get a fellow into quite a tizzy. For instance, all last week the temperature outside was in the thirties, so I planned a snowboarding trip for this week. Ha. As soon as I did that, the temperature jumped thirty degrees. It was in the sixties this weekend. Fortunately for me, DC Winter relented and dropped back to the mid forties by the time the day of my trip rolled around, so we were able to spend some time together, even if she was rather lukewarm about it.

December was cold, DC Winter promised me then we'd see a lot of each other. Since then, however, I've had to cancel two snowboarding trips due to warm weather and one other trip was seriously threatened by it. That one, though, turned bitter cold at the last minute, well after I had packed for it, leaving me shivering on the slopes while DC Winter laughed at me.

I'm telling you she's a tease and a flirt and trouble all around. I like the Winters, I really do. I always enjoy my visits with New England and New York. I'm looking forward to the week I'll be spending with Colorado Winter, but DC Winter is exasperating.