Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Bring back the cacophony!

I've been talking with them on the phone once each day. You parents might find this hard to believe -- those of you who think a week without kids would be heaven -- but I really miss the cacophony and tumultuous confusion. The running and laughing and yelling. I needed the first two days to get my health together and catch up on sleep. I think I have beaten that cold, by the way. But now I just want them home. I can't wait to pick them up at the airport.

A friend whose kids have been in regular baby-sitting "shares" with our kids called yesterday and said she had a meeting in a town I used to commute through, and needed to ask me something. I was sure she was going to say her childcare had fallen through, and would ask me if I could watch one of her kids for a couple of hours. I was not only ready to say yes, but I was happy about the prospect of getting some kid time. But she only wanted to know how much time she should allow for the trip. Good thing I didn't say, "Sure, I'll watch 'em!"

Some of the new people I have come to know through this blog are a lot like me. I suppose we could explain the shared character traits by way of a set of subliminal herding clues inherent in sentence structure, vocabulary, and overt themes. But how do you explain the fact that one of my new friends just happens to have been involved in the same kind of niche computer programming that I was? It's like if you were an Alpine mollusk farmer, and you just happened to run into another Alpine mollusk farmer ... in Arizona. I know, you're thinking that this woman is just claiming she knows programming. Well, I don't think so, based on the prior info in her blog. Yet there is a way to test. I can send her a piece of code with a subtle flaw in it, and ask her to debug it on sight. Now you're going to say that she'll show it to her programmer friend and have him debug it. Well maybe, but like I said I already trust her. As a programmer, an authentication scheme like this is the sort of thing you ponder. I'd give this one a grade of F. Being able to mentally test and detect the flaws in any algorithm (like the test I proposed here) is also something programmers are good at. Sometimes people find this annoying when we apply this ability to ordinary daily plans. Like, people who are just trying to get something done.

This code test idea reminds me of a story. I had two coworkers a few years ago. Both had ... distinct ... personalities and could be quite fun. But they were both immature, and much of what they did was high-school catty and mean. I got tired of the guy first, and basically avoided him. There was a lot of instant messenger chat going around the office, but I saw no need to add his moniker to my list, since I had no interest in talking to him. I still IM'd with the gal, and she was a good chat, for one thing because her life was an open book, while for his part the guy had something he was unsuccessfully hiding. He tried to be very cagey, tried to get inside people without offering his true self.

The guy and gal were best buddies, coconspirators. She was a huge Star Trek fan. I used to talk with her a lot about Star Trek. He didn't watch Star Trek and was never into it. That may help partially explain why she remained my friend and he did not.

Honest, this was going to be a really short blog entry about missing my kids. Two sentences, max.

Anyway, so time went on, and I began to notice something about the IM chats. Whenever I would ping her, she would say that she had to go pee, or needed to reboot for some reason. So she'd log off and then come back. Once in a while she would try to bring up the topic of the guy. I wasn't interested in talking about him and so said nothing in response to those bits. I began to suspect that 'she' was actually him, and the two high-school-mentality pals were playing a trick on me. So at one point I sprang an easy Star Trek trivia question on 'her.' I still remember the response:

"You're asking me Star Trek questions?"

There was a very long delay (for the attempt to reach the gal by phone, and perhaps the internet search engine usage), and then came the answer, which was wrong.

So I'll send the broken code to my new blogger friend and let you know how she does. I trust that she is who she says she is, but this will be fun.

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