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WESat – You Knew

Len’s challenge this week was to twist the reader’s emotions — start happy and end sad, or similar.
Unfortunately, this is the Christmas season and I have two young girls who are going stir-crazy. I have no time to write something new. So, I am recycling my response when this challenge was posted on Gather, which itself was recycled from an even earlier Gather Two-Word challenge. So, if it feels a little limp, that’s why.
My ancestors must have been Puritans: nothing goes to waste.

~~

Aidan.

I don’t know where you are, but I hope this finds you. I never got a chance to thank you and now this is the only way I will be able to.

I want you to know that AnnieBell is doing fine. That is her name. Of course everyone calls her Annabel. They just don’t listen, or they hear what they want to hear. But don’t worry, she knows her proper name and she will know how that came to be. She is nearly two now, and she is talking. She says AnnieBell quite clearly and my mother and father keep correcting her. “It’s Annabel dear” they say patiently and proudly and they laugh gently at her. She simply answers with AnnieBell. Again and again and again.

I wish I could talk to your mother Aidan. I wish I could let her know that her bloodline and her name are carried on, but you never told me anything about her other than that.

That night we talked until daybreak. I’d never talked so much in my life which was funny, considering. I told you everything there was to know about me, even the bad things, the secret things that gave me the scars and clamped my mouth shut whenever anybody pressed too close. The things the doctors never knew, with all their tests and their interviews and their opinions borne of study and degree and interrogation – I never trusted a White Coat, but then none of us did, did we?

But at the end of that night I knew almost nothing about you. I knew your name and your mother’s, and that was it. And much later when I asked, after you had gone and when they knew about AnnieBell, they claimed it was Private Information. They said they were Unable To Divulge. They said I must go through the Proper Channels. And then they wiped their hands of me and closed the doors and locked the gates. And I was here in the world with the one thing that kept me to you. They don’t know what happened that night and that’s fine; it was none of their business. I told them nothing. Maybe that was why they spited me later on.

You listened Aidan. You looked at me and you listened. You didn’t ask, and you didn’t judge. You didn’t take notes or offer explanations. And you laughed when I laughed and you cried when I cried and you were still when I was quiet. You knew Aidan. You knew what I needed even though you’d never met me before.

There are times here at home when I will cry all day and my mother and my father will come into my room with concerned looks take AnnieBell away from me and call Doctor Matthews, and he will come over and count my pills and make sure I am keeping to my schedules. But they just don’t understand that I cry because I need to, and when I’m done it is gone. Then they let AnnieBell see me again and I look at her face and she looks at mine and we both know it is all right.

You are no longer here, and maybe that was your choice or maybe it wasn’t. I don’t understand it but I’ve accepted that things don’t need my understanding. Things happen or they don’t. You happened to me: you gave me what I needed and you gave me AnnieBell, and then you found the path you had to take.

I don’t know how these things are supposed to work. I haven’t done this since I was a child, but I needed to tell you these things, and for you to know that I am grateful. So I’ve written it all down and AnnieBell and I are going to walk down to the church tomorrow morning and give this to the Reverend, and then I’m going to start telling her all the things you knew about me, and the things I don’t know about you.

Amen.

WEMon – Fun Facts

In this week’s Monday Humour challenge, Greg would like us to use exaggeration as a tool. Fair enough. He also said steal an idea, and as you read on you’ll see I stole a fair few of ‘em.

To start, I would like you to take a small test. Below are three interesting facts; your job is to decide which one is not true:

Fact #1: Page Three glamour model Katie Price has released no less than five autobiographies.
Fact #2: There are a total of one billion bacteria hitching a ride on and in your body.
Fact #3: I was named 2006 Person of the Year by TIME magazine.

Bing! Your time is up. Did you guess the fake fact? Of course you did. It is fact #2.

As any microbiologist will tell you, there aren’t a total of one billion bacteria on you right now. The true total is closer to… 100 trillion. Yep, you read that right. In fact, every square inch of your skin is home to 32 million of them.

Yuck.

And that is where I see a slight problem with this week’s prompt. For exaggeration to work as a tool for humour, it must be patently ridiculous. Yet for every silly exaggeration you can think of there will be a fact ten times as ridiculous.

Here’s another: there are over one and a half billion US $5 bills in circulation right now. Eighty percent will have traces of cocaine on them, and thirty percent will have, at some time in their lives, been stuffed into a stripper’s G-string. You might want to remember that, when handing your little darlings their weekly pocket money.

So sure, I could employ exaggeration to comical effect in this post.  I could tell you for example, about the hottest temperature ever recorded on earth: 7.2 trillion degrees Farenheit or, to put it another way, just a little bit hotter than the filling of your average McDonalds apple pie.

I could also tell you that the average 4-year-old asks 400 questions a day, which is why one of the first things I taught my daughter to do was to Google.

But I’m lazy. I don’t want to think up comic exaggerations, and real facts don’t require them. The human condition can serve up enough laughs all on its own, for example:

  • More than 2500 left handed people are killed each year, using equipment made for right-handers.
  • Vending machines kill four times more people per year than sharks do.
  • 58% of British teenagers think Sherlock Holmes was a real person, and Winston Churchill was not.
  • 55,000 people in the US are injured by jewellery each year, while 33,000 are injured on the toilet.
  • Six percent of Americans believe in unicorns.

Or how about these oddities from the natural world:

  • The total weight of all the ants on the earth is greater than that of all humans.
  • A mouse can fit through a hole the size of a ballpoint pen.
  • Humans share 50% of their DNA with bananas.

Seems like nobody has a bigger sense of humour than Mother Nature.

* Oh, and yes, I was named 2006 TIME magazine Person of the Year. So were you, your spouse, your children, your idiot cousin, and anybody else who so much as posted on Facebook or commented on an online forum. TIME magazine pretty much phoned it in that year.

Maxwell and the Sassenach

This is my response to this week’s WESat challenge: to write about castles. I am working from Len’s train of thought, and writing a fictional tale about the building by the Maxwell clan, of a triangular castle similar to Caerlaverock.

~~

The scene: a low hill, somewhere in Scotland during the Middle Ages. On that hill are two groups of men: the first, a company of labourers, is fronted by a great bear of a Scotsman. Has has a beard big enough to hide a haggis in, and is wearing the red and green of Clan Maxwell. He is looking at a sheaf of papers and chewing on a pencil.

The other group is led by an impatient Englishman in impeccable armour. He glares at the Scotsman, while his servants stand at a respectful distance.

Eventually the Scotsman straightens up and takes the pencil out of his mouth. “Well, y’see, there’s gonna be some problems wi what yer askin’ fer.” He scribbles on the paper. “This ground canna hold the weight of them walls yer want.”

The Englishman stamps his steel-shod foot. “Rubbish!  Lord Duncan’s castle is only a stone’s throw away and his walls are just as large.”

“Yeah, well, Laird Duncan built his castle on a tor. Good, solid rock under ‘im. This is just a bleedin’ hillock. If we build what yer askin’ fer, Laird Duncan could chuck that stone at yer front gate an’ knock it straight over.”

“Hrrmph, complete balderdash!  My castle in Hertfordshire is built on ground just like this. Good, English ground, and never a problem.”

“Hmm, had many battles in Hertfordshire recently?”

“Well, no.”

“Guessed as much. Look, I’m not sayin’ it canna be done yer way, just that it’s gonna cost yer to do it.” He writes a number on the paper and hands it to the Englishman.

“Are you kidding me?” The Englishman reddens, screws up the paper and throws it to the ground. His air of superiority dissipates into indignant rage. “Seriously, you bloody Scots are all the same. See an Englishman coming and you immediately jack up the bloody prices.” He waves a metallic finger under the Scotsman’s nose. “Well, let me tell you something. I’m Lord of this bloody place now, you bloody peasants better get used to it. My word is law, and that means you bloody well do what I bloody well say. You understand?”

The Scotsman is unimpressed. He waits for the Englishman to finish, then casually lobs a glob of spit on the ground between them. “Oh really? Yer think I ne’er come across your sort before pal? Yer sassenachs come ridin’ o’er the border, kill a few bloody farmers and call yerself a Laird, an’ we’re supposed to tug our forelocks? I dunno who yer bin speakin’ to pal, but I’m no peasant. I’m a Maxwell, and I’m a bloody master builder, an’ I got more than enough work from yer mates to keep me busy fer years. I don’ need yer shite.”

He tucks his papers under his arms and turns to his workers. “Okay fellas, let’s go. I hear Laird Duncan’s lookin’ fer a kitchen extension.”

“Alright, alright. I take it back.”

“That’s better, pal.”

“What would you recommend, then?”

“Well, I hear there’s been some intrestin’ things done wi concrete recently.”

“Concrete?”

“Yeah. Dead easy. An cheap. Just pour a bloody great slab, hoist it up, an’ there yer go. Course there’d be some concessions to make.”

“Such as?”

“Well, them ramparts would have to go. And the battlements, the bastions, the arrow-loops, the barbicans , the bartizans, the parapets, the towers, the turrets… ”

“Leaving me with?”

“Well, a wall.”

“That’s it?”

“Yep.”

“Not much of an option, is it?”

“Better than a pile of rocks on a hill.”

“Is there anything else?”

The Scotsman makes a show of narrowing his eyes and sucking air between his teeth. “Well, there’s one other thing, maybe. If yer set on using stone…”

“I am.”

“… we could possibly lose one o’ the walls.”

“One of the walls? Are you bloody serious?”

“Sure. We’ll build a trianglar castle instead.”

“A triangle… Lord Duncan will think I’ve gone insane!”

“Nah. Tell ‘im it’s the latest thing in castle design.”

“But it isn’t.”

“It will be, once we build it.’”

“He’ll never believe that!”

“Yes he will. Laird Duncan’s a feckin’ idiot.”

“What about the moat?”

“Well, yer were never gonna get a moat on this hillock anyway.”

“I don’t know… there’s nothing else you can think of?”

“Not fer yer money.”

“And definitely no moat?”

“Definitely.”

The Englishman slumps in defeat. “Oh well. Sign me up. I guess I can always add a moat later.”

“Only if yer learn to swim first, yer bloody sassenach.”

“What was that?”

“Nuthin, my Laird.”

The Bridge, the City, and Me.

Len’s challenge: write about stupidity you’ve encountered in government or business
This is based on actual events. I was indeed pursued in error three times by Auckland City over an incident on Grafton Bridge. My response described here however, is leavened by a good deal of artistic license
.

~~

 

Traffic Infringement Bureau,
Private Bag 1022, Symonds Street,
Auckland 1011

 Mr Gregory Berendson,
64 Roanoake Street,
Te Atatu North,
Auckland 0644

Dear Mr Berendson,

Traffic Infringement Number 10440902.

A 1995 Nissan Skyline registration VX1097, registered to you, was photographed driving on Grafton bridge at 3.43pm on Friday 6 February 2009. This is an offence under the Auckland Transport Act 2006, as Grafton Bridge is designated as a pedestrian and busway only.

This offence carries a fine of $150. You have 28 days to make payment.

If were not the driver, or if you wish to contest this notice or request a copy of the photographic evidence, you may contact the Traffic Infringement Bureau on 09 367 1010, or visit auckland.govt.nz/infringements and complete the web form.

Otherwise, payment may be made at any branch of the Westpac bank.

Sincerely,
John Smith
Infringements Officer.

~~

From: Pat Moore (patfm@swing.net.nz)
To: trafficenforcement@auckland.govt.nz
Subject: TIN10440902

Dear Mr Smith,

Please be advised that Mr Berendson has not lived at 64 Roanoake Street for over two years. His forwarding address is 27 Tutanekai Ave, New Lynn, Auckland 4141.

Could you please update your records.

With kind regards,
Pat Moore.

~~

Traffic Infringement Bureau,
Private Bag 1022, Symonds Street,
Auckland 1011

 Mr Pat Moore,
64 Roanoake Street,
Te Atatu North,
Auckland 0644

Dear Mr Moore,

Traffic Infringement Number 10440902.

A 1995 Nissan Skyline registration VX1097, registered to you, was photographed driving on Grafton bridge at 3.43pm on Friday 6 February 2009. This is an offence under the Auckland Transport Act 2006, as Grafton Bridge is designated as a pedestrian and busway only.

This is the second notice of the offence. It carries a fine of $150. You now have 20 days to make payment. If you wish to request a copy of the photographic evidence, you may contact the Traffic Infringement Bureau on 09 367 1010.

Sincerely,
Albert Jones
Senior Infringements Officer.

~~

From: Pat Moore (patfm@swing.net.nz)
To: trafficenforcement@auckland.govt.nz
Subject: FW: TIN10440902

Dear Mr Jones.

With regards to the above, there seems to be some confusion. If you check your records, you will see that the owner of the Nissan in question is Mr Gregory Berendson. I contacted you to advise his correct address, and all you have done is change his name to mine.

Please update your records correctly this time, and stop bothering me.

With regards,
Pat Moore.

~~

From: trafficenforcement@auckland.govt.nz
To: Pat Moore
Subject: FW: RE: TIN10440902

Dear Mr Moore,

Could you please advise the registration details for your car, so we may keep our records correct and bring this matter to a close.

Thanks and regards,
Albert Jones.

~~

From: Pat Moore (patfm@swing.net.nz)
To: trafficenforcement@auckland.govt.nz
Subject: RE: FW: RE: TIN10440902

I fail to see how my car registration is relevant to this conversation, however I drive a 1992 Toyota Corolla, registration RS3461.

Regards,
Pat Moore.

~~

Traffic Infringement Bureau,
Private Bag 1022, Symonds Street,
Auckland 1011

 Mr Pat Moore,

64 Roanoake Street,
Te Atatu North,
Auckland 0644

Dear Mr Moore,

Traffic Infringement Number 10440902.

A 1992 Toyota Corolla registration RS3461, registered to you, was photographed driving on Grafton bridge at 3.43pm on Friday 6 February 2009. This is an offence under the Auckland Transport Act 2006, as Grafton Bridge is designated as a pedestrian and busway only.

This is the third notice of the offence. It carries a fine of $150. You now have 12 days to make payment. If you wish to request a copy of the photographic evidence, you may contact the Traffic Infringement Bureau on 09 367 1010.

Sincerely,

Gordon Grant

Chief Infringements Officer.

~~

From: Pat Moore (patfm@swing.net.nz)
To: trafficenforcement@auckland.govt.nz
Subject: TIN10440902

Dear Mr Grant,

Are you kidding me? Just send me a copy of the goddamned photo.

With no regards at all,

Pat Moore.

~~

Traffic Infringement Bureau,
Private Bag 1022, Symonds Street,
Auckland 1011

 Mr Pat Moore,
64 Roanoake Street,
Te Atatu North,
Auckland 0644

Dear Mr Moore,

Traffic Infringement Number 10440902.

Please find enclosed a copy of the photo, as requested. As you will see, our records are quite clear that you were driving on Grafton Bridge at 3.43pm on Friday 6 February 2009.

This is the fourth and final notice of this offence. It carries a fine of $150. You now have eight days to make payment.

Sincerely,
Gordon Grant
Chief Infringements Officer.

~~

Mr Pat Moore,
64 Roanoake Street,
Te Atatu North,
Auckland 0644

Mr Gordon Grant,
Traffic Infringement Bureau,
Private Bag 1022, Symonds Street,
Auckland 1011.

Dear Mr Grant,

Traffic Infringement Number 10440902.

Please refer to the many communications between us thus far. You will find them attached. Go on, take a moment and look. I’ll wait.

Have you finished? Good. Because I don’t care what your records show, Mr Grant. I was nowhere near Grafton Bridge at 3.43pm on Friday 6 February 2009. Do you want to know why? Because I was actually at your house, in bed with your wife.

I didn’t want to be in bed with your wife, but I had no choice. You see, her records stated that I was supposed to be in bed with her at that time, and she had the correct form, in triplicate, notarised and signed. You know how it is, Mr Grant. You can’t argue with the paperwork, so there I was.

Apropos of that please excuse the handcuff marks on your bed frame, and you really should look at fixing that chipped paint on the bedroom ceiling.

I have been advised by your wife that her records show we are due for a follow-up appointment next Thursday. If you require a copy of the photographic evidence, please contact me on my email address and I will be happy to oblige.

Alternatively, perhaps you could take five minutes to review the events that have led us to this point, finally and correctly adjust your records, and get the hell out of my life. Your Traffic Infringement team are a bunch of soulless bureaucrats who make a conference of Chartered Accountants look like a flat-full of Scarfies during capping week. **

~~

Traffic Infringement Bureau,
Private Bag 1022, Symonds Street,
Auckland 1011

 Mr Pat Moore,
64 Roanoake Street,
Te Atatu North,
Auckland 0644

Dear Mr Moore,

Traffic Infringement Number 10440902.

With regards to your previous communications, we are pleased to advise you that this matter has been reviewed, and we will no longer be pursuing you for this payment.

Thank you for your patience in this matter.

Sincerely,
Gordon Grant
Chief Infringements Officer.

P.S. On a personal note, my wife says you were a lousy lay.

 

** for non Enzed readers, instead of  the scarfies reference please read ” a frat house on spring break.”
Cheers

Death By Tech

I started this as an entry into Greg’s MWE prompt about the clash between man and machine. Now, nearly two months later, I am completing it for his prompt about workplace stories. I may be slow, but at least I’m adaptable.

I have worked with computers and users for over two decades now, and am fully familiar with the terms PEBKAC and ID10T. This is easy to understand: users are physically and rationally imprecise, they are emotional and they have brains that run the fuzziest of fuzzy logic. Computers on the other hand are smaller, harder-edged and far more consistent. They are also just machines. So when a user appears at my desk to complain about how their little bit of plastic and metal is bent on sabotaging their day, I remind them that in that particular battle of wills, their antagonist has no more sentience than a Rubik’s cube.

Users. To us technical helpdesk staffers that word is both a noun and an epithet.

But one day changed all that. That day I found myself engaged in just such a battle, and thinking just like a user, in what I call The Case of the Suicidal Computer.

The computer in question belonged to Bob in Accounts. Bob in Accounts was one of my worst users. If dealing with users can be compared to Dante’s Inferno — and I believe it can — then Bob is right down there in the seventh circle with the violent and the blasphemers. He is the sort who can break a computer just by looking at it. As a result Bob had been issued with one of the oldest computers we have and he was only a couple of sins away from getting it replaced with a pen and paper.

One day I got a call from Bob. “My damn computer’s broke.”

“What is wrong with it?”

“I dunno. It’s broke.” And that was all the information I was going to get.

I made my way to his desk. Sure enough the screen was frozen solid and nothing short of a reboot was going to get it moving again. I could see the smeared imprints of Bob’s attempts at repair on the monitor and case.

“Damn thing’s done that to me three times already this morning!” Bob spat, jabbing at the keyboard.
There was no fixing it there, so I brought him a spare and took his one back to my desk.

I rebooted. I reset. I reconfigured. I uninstalled and reinstalled. I measured everything that could be measured and replaced everything that could be replaced. I also cleaned everything that could be cleaned and a few things that shouldn’t. I consulted user manuals. I consulted colleagues. I consulted FAQs. In short, I tried everything I knew.

I also swore. Copiously. Longer and louder and harder with every failed attempt. By mid-afternoon I had a lexicon that would make a sailor blush.

For its part it responded by wheezing, whining, bluescreening and stuttering. It froze up faster than my wife when I tell her I’m working over the weekend. For every problem fixed, a new one appeared. Then, just before it jammed for the fifteenth time, and as I stared at the hyperlink icon — you know the one, that little hand with the pointing finger — the monitor flickered, and I swear it flipped me the bird.

I ground the power button into the panel with my thumb, and as I did so it gave a tiny mechanical chuckle as it wound down into silence.

And that little sound made me take a step back and think. It was time perhaps, to listen to Bob’s computer rather than fight it.

Even Bob was not capable of screwing things up this badly. Too many things were broken too completely. So it dawned on me: this computer, this little box of plastic and metal, knew that repair meant being returned to Bob. It had endured months under his gentle care and was adamant never to return. So it was fighting me to the bitter end. It had contemplated life with Bob or suicide by tech, and had decided that death was the better option.

So I decided to grant it this last request. I owed it that much. The spare computer would meet all of Bob’s needs without rewarding his incompetence, so I filled in the requisite forms to retire his old one from service, solemnly took it out to the car park, and smashed it with a sledgehammer.

Been a while

Gidday.

It’s been a while.

I am, yet again, guilty of neglecting this page. Life has been getting in the way again.

Jobwise, I picked up a short-term gig which has just finished and, thankful as I am for the money, it was pretty full-on, with little time for family and fun. Not that I am making any excuses. I’m not here to moan, and you’re not hear to read about it.

Anyway, I still don’t have any fresh material, and combine that with the fact that Gather is now properly dead — I don’t know what that Gather golem of Kitara Media is about — I figured I would re-post a couple of older items from there, here. So, to follow will be Death By Tech, and The Bridge, the City, and Me.

Yeah, a cheat. I know. Whatever. At least it feels like progress. And I’m happy with that for now.

Cheers.