Sunday, March 27, 2011

What Happens in New Orleans, Stays in New Orleans

During my internship in Hell (aka, Baton Rouge, a city with all the charm of a suburb, the traffic of Los Angeles, the heat and humidity of the American South, and the safety of the slums of Brazil), the exotics department did field trips with the senior students on the rotation to the zoo in New Orleans. This was the year after Katrina and Rita passed through, so at that time New Orleans made Baton Rouge look like a great place to live.

The vet school was associated with the zoo, so there was some justification for this trip, but nobody in their right mind would ever let an untrained person do anything to a zoo animal, so essentially it was a long drive there, a few hours of standing around watching someone else do something, a few more hours of wandering around the zoo, and then a long drive back in the afternoon thunderstorm. Driving a passenger van along a narrow causeway over Lake Pontchartrain in not-quite gale force winds and blinding rain is something that I'd never like to repeat in my life.

Before I relate the following, I'd just like to point out that I was not involved in this incident in any way, shape, or form.

One of my fellow small animal interns was rotating through the exotics department when it was time to take the students to New Orleans. The day passed quietly enough, and they were heading back when they decided to stop for fast food. They parked the car, went inside, got their food, and were piling back into the van for the ride back when someone noticed an injured pigeon wandering on the pavement of the drive-through lane.

This being a van full of conscientious vet students (plus one fairly disinterested intern), they felt the need to save the pigeon, but before anyone could grab it, another car drove over it and left it seriously injured but alive.

At this point they all knew it needed to be euthanized, but the van had no supplies of any kind. So, with two students guiding her, my fellow intern, in a large white van with with vet school logo displayed prominently on all sides, carefully backed over the pigeon and squished it dead.

I can't say it was necessarily the wrong thing to do, but I probably wouldn't have come back and told everyone about it afterward had it been me...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Rapunzel, I'm not

On Friday it was time for my biennial hair cut. Yes, that's biennial as in every two years. I'd spend even less time in my life getting my hair cut, but at some point long hair just gets really, really irritating. Like when you try to turn your head to check your blind spot and you can't because your hair is trapped between you and the car seat. So in the interests of public safety, I had it chopped off.

To give an example of how long my hair was, they took off ten inches (the length needed to donate to Locks of Love) and I still have shoulder-length hair.

Every time I get my hair cut, I try to make it obvious from the start that I don't really care what they do as long as a) it's shorter afterward, and b) I'm not expected to spend any time on it in the morning. Yet every time I spend the whole twenty minutes getting asked whether I want layers, and if I want it shorter (or longer in the front), and whether I want it to frame my face, etc. I don't care. Really. I just don't care. Just stop slowing things down by asking all the questions and cut my hair however you want to.

What really makes me laugh, though, is that every time I get it cut, when it's really obvious that I haven't had it cut for over a year, the stylist recommends that I come back to get it trimmed in six weeks. I try not to laugh at them, but why would they think that's going to happen? In six weeks it will look exactly the same except a little longer. Why would I need to get it cut again?

Anyhow, now I just have to endure tomorrow when everyone must exclaim "You got your hair cut!" like it's some kind of major life event. (I can't really blame people for this -- I probably do the same thing. It's a way to cover up your surprise when you almost don't recognize someone.)

I think I should just start wearing a baseball cap everywhere.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

I Dub Thee...

I've worked with a lot of people over the years, some really good, some really, really bad, and a bunch somewhere in the middle. At one point Rvan had a list of all the people who had worked on and subsequently left the project and it was over one hundred when I lost track. Even given the name, I can't come up with a face for many of those people.

So you know someone must be pretty spectacular (in a negative fashion) to be really memorable. And it's really not a good sign if someone has a nickname.

(This doesn't apply to Rvan, of course, whom I knew as Rvan long before I was ever introduced to him and learned his real first name.)

- The name "40 Grit" was Jeff's creation, which is only fitting since Jeff had to work with him. You know how really fine sandpaper smooths a surface, but as the number of the paper goes down the surface stays rougher? Well forty grit is about the point where you're just irritating any smooth surface. That explains the name pretty well.

- "Eustace" was named after a character in a R.D. Wingfield book. In the book, "Useless Eustace" was a particularly inept bank robber. Our Eustace wasn't a bank robber as far as I know, but other than that he lived up to the name. For months when asked about the task he was working on he proclaimed that he would be done in "two weeks" while never showing signs of getting any closer. In fact, he was causing negative progress because at least once or twice a day he would lock up his window manager and have to get someone else to log into his machine and kill off the process. It's not like the cause of the problem was any big secret -- every time we had to stop and take care of his problem we suggested that he stop trying to set a breakpoint in the middle of a button click handler, but he never got the hint. Finally I got tired of dealing with him, so I came in over the weekend and wrote the project he was working on from scratch, so we were able to finally get rid of him. Now he lives on only as a test user in my database.

Anyhow, mean? Probably. Funny? Definitely at the time. Even now it makes me laugh, which is good since otherwise...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Ouch, You're Hurting My Feelings. No, Really. I Promise.

In the latest skirmish of the battle to convince people I'm not really an "employee", the people who pay me money are threatening to take things away. I'm trying to be pissed off about this on general principle, but the things they are threatening to take away:

1) My phone at work, and
2) My MS Outlook account with its 250 MB (that's not a typo) limit that means that a significant part of the work life is spent trying to dump things as fast as possible because people keep sending 10MB attachments.

This is like someone telling you that you've been arrested and your sentence is a free lifetime supply of chocolate and a new car. I'll be the envy of every employee at the company.

So yeah, even though we're at the "everyone needs to be fired" point of the current release, things are looking up.

Sure, I don't get paid vacations, but we all know that I'm not leaving California ever again anyhow.

And at least I don't have non-refundable plane tickets to a country that the US State Department just issued a travel advisory for...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

It Must Be Spring!

I can always tell when it's Spring because I have the sudden urge to make my backyard look better. Generally I then do one thing (or half of one thing) and then give up for another year. This explains why my yard looks the way it does.

This year I think I'm going to put raised beds in the garden. My neighbor came up with this cool thing called the "M Brace" (that's my neighbor Jill in the video) which makes raised beds really easy to put together. I'm thinking I might be able to get all the way through putting these together before I run out of steam.

(On a side note, the business is apparently doing really well, which is great. I'm hoping they make enough money to retire very comfortably without making so much money that they feel they have to move someplace else. In any case, I'll let them pick up the tab on the next fence.)

I'm glad I have the neighbors that I do -- the people two houses away complained about my neighbor's chickens and said that their grown son was afraid to bring his baby over because chickens carry diseases. We're talking five chickens in the world's nicest (and cleanest) chicken coop. Unbelievable.

Had those neighbors complained about my (theoretical) chickens, they might have suffered the same fate as the orange stray...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Don't Mess With Me

For the past year or so I've been catching glimpses of an orange cat outside my house. Based on his head size, I was pretty sure he was an intact stray, but I could never get close enough to him to check.

Then he started standing on the ledge and spraying my window.

This afforded me a great view of the "wedding vegetables" (or "garden vegetables", as Rvan likes to refer to the phrase), and also afforded me some incentive to catch the little bastard and deal with him. So over the weekend I trapped him, had him neutered and vaccinated, and released him again.

Things I learned:
1) My county animal services rents traps for $5 a day. Such a bargain.
2) Don't assume it's going to take multiple days to trap the cat. I figured it would take a few days of catching and releasing my neighbor's cats before I got lucky, when in fact I put the trap out, went to check on it two hours later, and found the cat I was looking for throwing a fit inside.
3) Don't trap a cat on a Friday night. Many places will do spays and neuters of feral cats, but most will do so Monday - Friday. There's no safe way to get food and water into a cat trap, and there's no litter box. Staying in the trap for three days wasn't really an option.
4) Having friends is really helpful. I sent out a plea on facebook and two people who were senior students while I was a resident offered to fit the neuter into their Saturday schedules.
5) Driving with a tomcat in the car for forty-five minutes may make it time to buy a new car. If you've never experienced the special pong of tomcat urine, let's just say that your sinuses may never be the same. The closer of the two places I could take him was in Elk Grove, which is slightly less than an hour away when it's raining...

So if I ever need to do this again, I'll plan things a little better.

There are two possible morals for this story.

One has something to do with civic responsibility.

The other is a cautionary tale: Don't piss me off or I will hunt you down and remove your testicles.

Any questions?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Compulsive Much?

The question of the day: What do illiterate people do with their brains all day long?

That's actually a real question, not a put down. I can't even imagine trying to get by in this society without being able to read. That's one of the key "I wouldn't be where I am right now" forks in the road.

But I really meant that more on a minute to minute level. My brain goes into its own version of hyperventilating when I'm stuck in one place and there aren't words printed in front of me. For example, I read the ad copy on the bottle of detergent while I'm doing the dishes. I read all the bumper stickers and license plate holders while I walk the dogs. The two toaster ovens at work have similar but not identical wording on the glass fronts about not opening the door if something is on fire inside. (That last one came in handy at home this evening. Mmm. Burning butter on homemade rye toast. Does it get any better than that?) I know this because I have nothing else to read in that corner of the kitchen while I'm waiting for my dinner to heat up, so I read the wording on one, then the wording on the other, then back to the first, and so on until either my food is hot or I wander over to read the OSHA posters.

I think I may pay for that compulsive reading by an inability to notice anything that isn't written. I am possibly the least observant person I've ever met. I have to look at my house to know what color the paint is. I only noticed one car parked partially under another one because the smashed up one had words on it. Otherwise I probably would have walked by and never even seen it.

I'm probably not alone in this compulsion, but it really does make me wonder. What would I have been like in a non-literate society?

Let me read up on that and get back to you...