Thursday, June 30, 2011

Captain's Log, Day Ten: A Little Logic Goes a Long Way...

          I’m not a psychologist. By ANY means. I might be what a psychologist calls a “literalist,” though. Or maybe just “annoying.”
          In one of my classes at college (one of the seriously lamer ones), a guest speaker was brought in to talk about moral dilemmas. After a few condescending remarks (in all charity, maybe he just mixed up his kindergarten notes with the college ones?), he gave this example of a dilemma; “Suppose you saw a runaway train full of passengers. You’re standing next to a fat man. The only way to stop the train and save the people is to sacrifice the man by pushing him onto the tracks. What would you do?”
          One person raised her hand. “I’d sacrifice the man. After all, there’s more people on the train who could be saved.”
          Another person: “But then you’d be killing the first guy! Maybe you could just ask him to sacrifice himself?”
          Me: “How the heck could a fat guy stop a train?” Oops, did I just say that out loud?
          The professor thought for a moment. “Well, just imagine that he’s fat enough to stop the train!”
          A buddy of mine a few seats away (also an engineer like myself): “Umm, but if he’s that fat, wouldn’t you not be able to move him anyway?”
          “Okay, then pretend you have superhuman strength…”
          Another person joins us. “But then couldn’t I just stop the train myself?”
          “Pretend that you’re strong enough to move the man but not strong enough to stop the train!”
          Me: “But by throwing a large object in front of the train, wouldn’t that cause it to stop so suddenly that it crashes? In that case, the point is moot because you killed everyone…”
          The professor wipes his glasses. “Okay, maybe that wasn’t the best example…what if you’re a sniper and you see three people about to perform three executions, of a soldier, a clergyman, and a child. You only have two bullets. Who do you save?”
          I decided to hush up for this part, even though I wanted to mention out that the second one of them collapsed, the rest would take cover, but I figured the class had enough people to point that out. Sure enough, after about a minute, one of them did. Gotta love engineers, right? As an added note, the professor praised us at the end of the class for being so “logical” and added, “This is the most involved class I’ve ever taught!”
          How about this for a dilemma: You’re failing three classes. You can only study for two…

**Captain's Note: For the sniper example, Nemesis suggested "Shoot two people and bluff the third." 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Captain's Log, Day Nine: Today, Robin Hood CHEATS

          I have a slight apology to make. I spent all day today working, so I was unfortunately not able to come up with a decent (coherent) thought for an article today. But don't worry--I have a solution. It's called...wait for it...CHEATING. Yep, I'm going to post a short story I wrote a few months ago detailing some of the more imaginative goings-on of my youth, i.e. last summer. Guess who I am in this episode...

                                       Robin Hood and His Merry Men
            Robin Hood and his Merry Men roamed the forests of Sherwood. They were the terror of the Sheriff and his evil henchmen; unstoppable, save when they forgot who they were. An excerpt from the aftermath of a raid will suffice to show the amnesia of said Merry Men:

“Hey, Little John, where are the crackers?”
“Little John” looks up from the backpack he is rummaging through. “I’m not Little John, I’m Robin Hood!”
“Hey, I thought I was Robin Hood!”
“No, you’re Much the Miller.”
A third voice, “I thought SHE was Little John and I was Much!”
Robin Hood sighs. “No, YOU’RE Little John and SHE’S Much. And YOU have the crackers.”
“I’m Maid Marian, right?” The person who speaks thus attempts to hit a tree with Much’s bow and arrow. Despite being in a dense forest, she doesn’t hit a thing. Including the ground, as the arrow lands in the creek.
Much nods her head, then sees the bow. “Hey, give me that back!!”
Maid Marian reluctantly passes over the bow. “Can I have some cheese?”
Much hands her the cheese. “I totally beat the Sherriff!!”
“Didya see me take on the twelve henchmen?” Little John asks excitedly, swinging his quarterstaff.
“Too bad Mom won’t let us carry our quarterstaffs into the house,” Robin Hood observes. “That would be a lot more fun.”
“We can still beat them anyway,” Much counters—a wise observation, as the Sherriff and his men exist only in the very real imaginings of the foursome.
“THERE THEY ARE!!!” Robin Hood has gotten a bit bored with lunch and decides to liven things up a bit. He snatches up his staff and charges flailing into a bush, which he begins whacking with an enthusiasm that would not be out of place in a demolition shop. “I’ll take these fifteen! Take THAT!”
Much immediately begins shooting at trees with better accuracy than her sister, killing the henchmen in droves. Little John runs to help Robin Hood subdue the bush. Maid Marian is obviously torn between the cheese and her duty, but the battle is over before she can decide on an appropriate course of action.
After much bragging, the four return to their snack. Small talk continues until Robin Hood remembers something. He springs up and runs back to the now thoroughly cowed bush. He returns with some old leaves.
“Look!” he says. “Gold!”

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Captain's Log, Day Eight: Yiiiiiiiikes....

          Okay, this is weird...
          My computer crashed last night. This is nothing particularily new, except for the fact that it was unintentional this time and now I can't start it. Odd, no? Especially for me...this is the first time in seven years--ever since I started working with computers--that I have had to contact Technical Support for assistance. I have a lot of tricks, but they only work if the computer actually, um, STARTS.
          Fortunately, I have backed up most of my computer to other places (a lot of other places) but still...this is kinda lame. This never happens! As it turns out, my hard drive was fried, so I had to replace it. I didn't lose too much stuff, thanks to my backups, but I'm still going to be taking a look at my old drive to see if I can salvage anything off of it. I have some really cool new geek tools for that, too, so it's not a complete waste of time...
          Currently, I'm operating off of Nemesis's computer, which I hijacked (it pays to be the network admin--you can get everyone's passwords!). He's being, "charitable"...about the whole thing. Okay, okay, he doesn't know I have it. Did I mention the benefits of having everyone's passwords?
          On an entirely unrelated subject that just now entered my mind, I found the game Tron online and dueled first the computer and then Nemesis. I was slaughtered both times...although with Nemesis, it got very amusing because we tended to do the same thing at the same time, so we got in a lot of head-on collisions. He started gloating, so I fired up Radical Aces (a flight game) and kicked his cocky little kiester on that, so we're planning a ChexQuest duel to determine the champ of the gaming zone in our house.
           Anyway, I thought everyone would be really happy to know that my computer will be fixed, so I can continue to bring you this awesome blo...ahh, who am I kidding? One of you probably sent me a virus! ;)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Captain’s Log, Day Seven: Elementary, my dear Watson!

          I wonder if I would make a good detective?
          This question entered my tiny little brain after my third Columbo episode of this last week. Believe it or not, I actually successfully determined the criminal before Columbo did. And for those of you who have seen the show, it WASN’T because they showed the murder first!!!! Although, I will admit, that kinda helped…
          Seriously though, I do really well with those murder mystery books, with the exception of anything written by Timothy Zahn because he leaves stuff out. I think my natural cynicism helps; it also makes it a little hard to watch movies in general because I can usually predict what’s coming next. Has anyone else noted repeating themes here?
          There’s only one problem with my amazing prowess here, though (and yes, that was sarcasm)…in movies and books, there’s a limited number of characters. It has to be someone in the plot line who gives himself/herself away in a predictable manner. Now, real life can be infinitely more complicated, so I feel like I would be more of a hindrance than a help…

          Head of the FBI: “What have you come up with?”
          Me: “The butler did it!”
          HFBI: “There is no butler, dummy.”
          Me (confused): “Let me check my files…”
          HFBI: “You do tha—why are you using my TV?”
          Me: “I’m studying Columbo! I’m sure he could figure it out.”
          HFBI: “Maybe we’ll just arrest you instead.”

          Unfortunately, this would also probably mean I could never enter a life of crime…

          FBI: “You’re under arrest for the bank robbery.”
          Me: “I would never do such a thing!”
          FBI: “Uh, you left your wallet in the vault.”
          Me: “Well, yeah, because the bags were so much more conveni—damn.”

          Actually, I have tried a life of crime before (pilfered chocolate chips from the freezer when I was younger) but got betrayed by my trusted sidekick (i.e. my sister Quill had an irritated conscience). Well, that and my mom had a limited number of suspects to choose from. The ironic part was that we were playing a certain role at the time, complete with bows and arrows…but we ate all the chocolate ourselves.
          Robin Hood, I ain’t. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Captain's Log, Day Six: I shalt not pose...

          Cameras are a bit of a menace.
          Seriously. The only thing cameras should be used for is TV and videotaping potential epic YouTube moments. But for crying out loud, quit pointing them at ME!!!!
          I’m sure you all know what I mean. You’re idly reading a book or building the next super-weapon of mass destruction when you feel it. Your nose itches. You start to reach up to scratch it…*click* your stupid sibling takes a picture and now you look like you’re about to pick your nose. Guess where that photo’s going to end up?
          It’s worse for me. I have never been photographed decently. Ever. I always look startled, as if I wasn’t expecting the shot, when in fact I have been preparing for it for the last eleven minutes. My unphotogenicness (which is a word as of now) doesn’t help either. The only way I would ever have a decent picture taken of me would be through much use of Photoshop. And a substitute.
          What’s seriously annoying is the rest of my family can roll out of bed and be photo-ready (with the exception of Squirrel, who would be asleep). Honestly, the worse I’ve ever seen any of them do is the standard deer-in-headlights expression; Dad is usually the culprit on that one, although Nemesis has done it on occasion. Actually…when he does that, I think it’s my fault because I usually kick him after he pokes me.  So he deserves it.
          I also have an additional handicap; I usually look like I just survived a car wreck. A lot of my creations seem to be cursed—they’ll work just fine, riiiiight up until the point when I demonstrate it to someone else, at which point they will invariably fail, often in a more-or-less deadly way towards myself. My vine swing is a perfect example. I found a vine out in the woods and swung on it for a couple hours before deciding to share this discovery with my siblings. I called them out, took a running start and *snap*. I cracked a couple ribs and my siblings cracked up.
          So what is my philosophy with regard to cameras? It’s the same as my philosophy on guns. POINT THAT THING SOMEWHERE ELSE!!!!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Captain's Log, Day Five: A Fish, the Force and Some Politics

          “There’s always a bigger fish…”
          Qui-Gon ROCKS. I’ve always been a big fan of Star Wars—I have four lightsabers at home, fyi—so it came as a shock to me to realize that I haven’t actually watched any of them for almost half a year. Then I realized that I have an excuse—homework load at college last semester was in-SANE, so I didn’t have much time to watch anything period. I feel a bit better now.
          I think it would be really cool to be a Jedi. One time when I was younger, I spent some time trying to learn to block shots with a sword. It was probably a good thing I started with Nerf darts and not, say, actual weaponry, because I sucked at it. Let’s face it—I’m better at ducking. Live with my siblings long enough and you just acquire these skills. Also, when practicing my orating, stuff tends to get thrown at me, as this excerpt from our club meeting will show:

          3:13     Debate about what else to debate. Secretary claims that President likes “Ella Enchanted.” Small argument. Bandages administered. Lookout continues to daydream.
          3:14     Lookout couldn't guard her way out of a paper bag.
          3:15     Treasurer’s report (the Treasurer forgot until now)
          3:16     Debate about club anthem. President offers to give speech and is answered by enthusiastic “boo”s. He gives one anyway and gets stuff thrown at him.

          Well, ok, this also shows that our club has ADD problems, but still…with such a rude reception, how can one pass up the chance to give a speech? And who would have thought pencils, Legos and books would hurt so much? (Don’t you dare laugh. You try dodging a million flying objects and see how much YOU get clobbered.)
          That’s an occasion that the Force would have come in really handy. My brother Nemesis and I also spent an entire week trying to “Force-influence” our parents into giving us extra dessert. We eventually reverted to the more reliable method of “distract-and-swipe” when it was conclusively proved that we unfortunately are not Jedi. I did return to this futile mental hope during some of my more boring classes at college (You will adjourn class now…you will adjourn class now…at least don’t spring a pop quiz…CRAP). That’s where I found out that there ARE mind-readers in the world. We call them “professors” and they are always able to tell when one hasn’t studied and adjust the quizzes accordingly. I know which side of the Force they belong to.
          Anyway, guess what I’m watching tonight!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Captain's Log, Day Four: "Shuffling" verses "Epic"

          So on the way home today, I had to move out of the way on the road for an ambulance.
          Naturally, this made me begin to think. Unfortunately, I’ve never found a way to turn off my mind. The mind derailment started with ambulances in general. First off, I wasn’t sure whether to be grateful or not that I’ve never been in one. On the one hand, it’s definitely a good thing that I’ve never been busted up badly enough to warrant a ride, but on the other hand, I’m kinda curious as to what’s in one of those things. Wonder if there’s a bacta tank back there? Maybe I should watch US Marshalls again.
          My next logical thought (as I watched it speed off) was, “I wonder what it’s like to drive one?” Think about this for a second…you get to drive waaaay faster than the speed limit. And it’s LEGAL!!!! At least, I’ve never heard of an ambulance getting ticketed. The only problem with that it that you have to deal with the injured people in the back. I don’t think I’d do well with that.  And on a slightly unrelated topic that just popped into my head (as long as I’m on the subject of speeding), I wonder if police officers ever turn on their lights in the hopes that someone will try to escape? I would imagine that it would be really fun to try to run down someone in one of those new police cruisers, not to mention that going 220 mph also sounds really fun.
          Anyway, the last and most sobering thing that I thought about—YES, I can be serious sometimes!—was my mortality. I’ve always kinda wonder about how I would “shuffle off this mortal coil,” as it were. Knowing me, I’m not gonna “shuffle.” It will be more of a “bungee-jump-off-the-treehouse-breaks-cord-slamming-me-onto-springboard-launching-me-over-pond-into-barn-where-static-electricitry-sparks-set-off-the-firework-stash-that-I-KNEW-I-should-have-moved-into-my-secret-hideout-before-now.” I just hope someone has a camera so I can watch the epicness during my ambulance ride, instead of absolutely ticking off the driver by my constant backseat directions.
          But who am I kidding? I’m not an epic person, I’m more of a height-of-irony guy. I’ll probably be hit by an ambulance. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Captain's Log, Day Three: Socks and World Domination

          I am, unfortunately, not a tidy person.
          Don’t get me wrong—I love a good clean room, but if it was up to me, entropy would win every time. I kinda figure, “What’s the point of cleaning if it’s just going to get messy again?” That’s probably what led to me never using my cups at college, although I gotta admit, drinking milk straight out of the jug is just plain fun, too.
          There is one exception to the “God created entropy, so it must mean He wants it to be messy” philosophy (and yes, I did pull that argument on my mom once. No, you don’t get to know how THAT one ended). That would be my dad’s philosophy; it can be summed up in one word. Delegation. Unfortunately, this seems to be a one-person-only argument, meaning that it only works for Dad. I kinda found that out tonight while cleaning up after dinner. When he told me to “Get a towel, Will. I need a dryer over here,” I grabbed one off the rack and threw it at my brother Nemesis, who promptly hurled it straight back at me. For about a minute, we had a hard-core towel war before my dad turned around and yelled, “What on Earth are you doing??” I turned around, getting hit by the towel in the process, and replied with a completely straight face, “DELEGATION!!!!” I ended up drying dishes anyway.
          Currently, I’m hanging out in the room I share with Nemesis. It looks like a tornado hit it. Twice. Maybe I should stop practicing my swordplay in here. On the other hand, it might also be Nemesis’s fault—I’m pretty sure some of his socks mutated into sentient life forms. They hide under the bed and feed on his other, less dirty, socks that he’s currently working on. That kid has gotta wash the life right out of those things. It’s a little scary. The thought has occurred to me to possibly try to tame them, too. Maybe I could sell them...anyone interested in a living sock? Or maybe I could use them to help me take over the world?
          HEY, how did my master plans for world domination end up in the middle of the floor? UNDER THE BED WITH THE SOCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Captain's Log, Day Two: Brothers

          I don’t mind rain, but when you’re getting soaked while trying to carry a desk through a door and your brother, who’s inside and DRY, drops said desk on your foot, it’s hard not to hate the water trickling down the back of your neck. Or your brother.
          As I’m hopping around on one foot wishing I knew another language (so I could swear and no one would know), Nemesis decides the best thing to do is complain about the weather, which made me quit thinking about my foot and look around for something to throw at him. Did I mention he’s currently inside? Bugger.
          Seriously, though, you gotta love brothers. Who else will help you build a cannon and set it off in the barn? Who else would volunteer to be a moving target for the rocket launcher in our treehouse? And who else would enjoy building paper boats, attaching fireworks to them, and launching them in the pond? OK, yeah, my sisters would too, but they’d want the parental unit out there as well to “supervise” or some such nonsense. Unfortunately, my parents do not have a very good sense of what is “awesome,” per se…my mom caught us when we were about to test the aforementioned cannon. I still maintain that it would have worked.
          Nemesis can also come up with some of the most awesome and evil ideas ever. In his words, “Gee, how evil can we get?...let’s find out!” (Actually, this might be his MOTTO, but I’ve never asked.) This has led to near-death on several occasions when he rigged my room with various traps. His death, by the way, not mine. This also led to the infamous Christmas Day Present Duel, when—mere hours after I had realized I was missing several boxes of fireworks—he placed my present under the tree and told me to listen to it. It was TICKING. Not to be outdone, I build a mechanical troll and tucked it in my present to him. It shook the box and roared every time he touched it. I’m sure we were the only people in the world who brought blast shields and toolkits to the tree Christmas morning.
          Seriously, though, I have a great brother. He’s still going to find a frog in his bed tonight…

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Captain's Log, Day One: Let's start at the beginning...

          I've got some interesting friends.
          There's really no other way to describe it. I don't mind too much though; they make for some great stories. This, though, might be a little crazy, even for them...
          I was chatting with a buddy tonight--for clarity's sake, let's call him...oh, how about Justin? Justin and I were doing our usual Tuesday night routine of comparing tech notes, making random plans for techie stuff, and making even more random bets with each other ("Five bucks says I can find a picture of a platypus before you do!!" "You're on!!"). It's one of the most fun things to do, especially if the other person lives a good airplane flight away and you don't need to pay up immediately. We usually bet money and thus far have always broken even, but tonight got a bit different...
          Justin: "Hey, did you know my sister started a blog?"
          Me: "FOUND A PLATYPUS!!! You owe me 5 bucks!! and pshh, what's the point of a blog?"
          Justin: "You cheated!"
          Me: "Your computer is just slow."
          Justin: "Have you ever made a blog?"
          Me: "No, and I don't intend to."
          Justin: "You mean there's a tech thing you haven't tried?"
          Me: "Yup."
          Justin: "New bet. Checkers. Loser creates a blog immediately!"
          Well, you can guess the rest. But I made history tonight: I came out five dollars ahead. I win, Justin. ;)