Archive for December, 2005


Tonight, I went to a party.  I knew I’d have fun, but it went way beyond that.  I took a moment to step back and take stock of the people I spoke to at this party.  It occurs to me that if I were to go to a Hollywood party with all sorts of stars the conversation would go like this:

“Hey you were great in …”

“Why thank you!”

Next star.  Same chat.  Repeat until intoxication.

 

But tonight, I met heroes.  Real life, extraordinary heroes.  I can verify that none of this was made up, but you’ll have to trust me, as I won’t reveal identities.  You’re going to get the brief stories here so I can cover them all.

 

There was, first of all, Rick.  We’ve known Rick and his family for years.  He goes first because he’s a hero in the most classic sense.  Tonight, he told us about a recent golf outing (perhaps a month ago?).  On the second hole, he and his friends witnessed a car running off the road in into a retention pond on the course.  As it sunk, no one got out.   He went into the pond, broke a window and rescued a woman from the passenger seat.  Her husband had suffered a stroke and died at the wheel.  Rick suffered an injury to his foot that lasted a month, but was unaware of it until he was back in his golf cart after the incident and noticed blood.  He was a quick-thinker and a life saver in the truest sense!

 

Next was Barbara.  The conversation was mainly about things like parenting and spouse-dating (i.e. – how often do you get a babysitter and go out on a date with your spouse?).  What puts her second on this list is that she is the principle cellist for a major symphony orchestra group.  I envy and admire anyone with the talent and persistence to become a musician of this caliber.  We talked about the differences between working on the latest computer systems and working with an instrument designed hundreds of years ago to produce sounds that touch you inside.  She commented that when the power went out during the hurricanes, she didn’t miss electricity at all.  And it wasn’t part of our chat, but which career is more likely to affect a greater number of people (perhaps mine, based on the volume of people using my systems)? And which is likely to have its effect remembered for a lifetime (undoubtedly hers, as no one has ever had their soul stirred by being checked in at a cruise terminal)?

 

Finally was Barbara’s husband, Billy.  He worked with a major animation company (can you guess which?), and when they disbanded their animation department, he worked with his team to form a new company.  They are highly successful and are on the verge of a fairly major movie release.  So, this goes back to Hollywood… sort of… but on a much higher and more respectable level.  Animation, as you may have noticed from a recent post, is my top fantasy job.  I wish that I had the level of creativity needed to follow this path.  I would love to be able to fully convey the images in my imagination to others through my work.  Billy and I discovered we have recently been working toward the same middle ground… he from the art side to the technical, and I from the technical to the art side.  We were both trying to learn Flash animation.  He’ll more likely succeed because it’s directly applicable to and supported by his work.  But someday, I’ll get there, too.

 

So, all I can say about this evening is … WOW!  How incredible it is to get to know the people I am lucky enough to know!  I’m not likely to be starstruck by actual stars.  But these people have really achieved something!

OK…. I’ve decided to tell the "big story" about when I got shot (since I find myself referencing it periodically).  Rather than re-hash, I’m going to paste the contents of an e-mail I wrote to my co-workers on September 10th, 2002 (I went back to work on October 3rd).  This is all about an incident that happened on August 21, 2002 (highlighted so it wouldn’t be taken as current news), and the recovery that followed:
 
Hello Everyone!
 
I wanted first to say thank you for all your kind regards and for making the nurses comment on all the flowers, balloons and cookie bouquets every time they came in my hospital room.
 
Next, I know that you’re all curious as to just what happened the night of my shooting.  I know that when I finally come back to work, there will be many questions, and I’m hoping to quell a few through this e-mail.  So here, in minute detail, is what happened the night I was shot.
 
On August 21st, I was going to see a movie at the Enzian theater called "Spike and Mike’s Sick and Twisted Animation Festival".  I’d heard about it very late and there was only one chance I’d have had to see it.  It’s an annual event and I usually go with a group of people, but I didn’t have time to get invitations out this time.  Being that there was only one showing — at 10:00pm — I had a lot of time to waste between getting off work and going to the theater.  I went to dinner with a friend, came back to work and got changed, and it was still only 8:00.  So I headed toward the Enzian.  I even stopped off at the VW dealer to get prices on a few vehicles.  They closed at 9:00.  So I went to the theater. 
 
I bought my ticket, and realized I only had $7.00 left.  Since I wanted a beer during the movie, I decided not to buy one before the film.  Instead, with 50 minutes left before showtime, I decided to take a walk.  It was dark, but it was a beautiful neighborhood, so I didn’t worry too much.  I headed straight up Magnolia.  As I walked, a car pulled up from behind into the driveway of a gated community and just looped around without approaching the gate.  Someone got out and the car headed back toward 17-92.  So I continued along my way and another car pulled up, turned left on a side street, made a U-turn, and stopped, now facing the street I was on.  As I crossed in front of the car, the engine and headlights came on and it drove at me.  I dodged the car and jumped up on the sidewalk, thinking it was a bunch of teenagers or something playing around.  Someone got out the driver’s side, and I knew things were bad, so I ran across the lawn of the house I was near. 
 
The guy yelled "Stop running!", and I yelled back "No!".  I kept going, and he yelled "Stop running or I will shoot you."  His voice was calm, as if he were giving me instructions instead of threatening me.  I stopped and began to turn around and he shot me in the back.  It felt like a hard smack in the shoulder, and I wouldn’t have said anything pierced my skin by the feel of it, but I knew what had happened, even though I hadn’t eliminated a paint-ball as the thing that hit me.
 
He ran up on me and put the gun against my right temple.  "Give me everything.   I want your wallet and your cell-phone."  So I pulled them out of my pockets and gave them to him.  "Anything else?" he asked.  I began rifling through my pockets and came up with the $7.00.  The car had pulled up close to where we were.  He backed toward the car, keeping the gun at my head so I was now facing the car.  "What are the numbers?"  he demanded.  I kept asking what numbers and he was getting upset.  Finally he said PIN numbers.  So I gave him a bogus 4-digit number.  He pushed the gun harder into my head and yelled "Is that real?" and I answered "Yes".  He repeated this about three times.  "You better come with us.", he demanded.  I refused.  Finally he backed away, held up my wallet and said "It better be right.  I know where you live and will go after your family if it’s wrong."  He got in the car and they sped off back in the direction of 17-92.
 
My first instinct was to head back to my car (which was about a 15 minute walk away).  Then I realized that the bullet could be anywhere and just waiting to cause me to collapse, even though it didn’t hurt at the time.  I went to the nearest lit house and rang the doorbell.  A 17-year old kid answered the door.  I asked if I could use the phone because I’d been shot, and he called for his father.  His father brought a cordless phone outside and we sat on the stoop and he called 911.  After a few moments and as they figured out I was OK, they invited me in and brought me a cell-phone, which I used to call Michelle.  I told her where I was because I didn’t know what hospital I was going to.  Then I was on the phone with the police, but it was getting hard to breathe and I felt faint.  I laid down on the tile floor.  The cop on the phone kept me talking so I would stay conscious.  Shortly the ambulance was there and the EMT’s took me to the hospital.
 
At the hospital, things looked good.  The bullet had amazingly missed all bones and organs.  The entry wound was immediately beneath my shoulder-blade, and the bullet was near the center of my torso.  As the doctors put it after reading the X-ray, two fingers away from my spinal cord and aorta.  My right lung had collapsed a bit, but looked alright.  They were going to send me home.  The bullet would remain inside me permanently.  It was lodged in the chest cavity near the lung (but hadn’t pierced the lung).
 
The police questioned me about the incident, at first thinking a walk was an odd thing and wondering what I was doing "in the car with these guys".  Finally, after comparing stories between Michelle (who hadn’t yet spoken to me) and me, they were comfortable with the fact that I take a walk to relax!  Finally, an officer took an official statement on tape.  After finding the movie ticket in my pants pocket, and everything else (father of three, a decent job at a reputable company, etc…) I felt comfortable with the police believing that I was giving them the right story.
 
Then another doctor came in and read the X-ray and said I needed to be kept overnight based on the collapse of the lung.  In the morning, if there was no improvement, I’d receive a chest-tube.  Finally, yet another doctor arrived and said there was no question and the tube had to be put in immediately.  They told Michelle this was a process similar to harpooning a whale.  I don’t doubt it because anesthetized and numbed, it still hurt like … well, like being harpooned.
 
Days went by in the hospital, and I was improving (a lot of detail gets lost here due to morphine, sorry).  We finally felt comfortable telling the kids what had happened and allowing them to visit for short periods of time.  We didn’t want them to see me with too many tubes or looking too sick.
 
Soon, however, I started getting nauseous when I ate and running a fever which peaked near 104.  The doctors couldn’t figure out what it was at first and were thinking I’d need another chest tube at the bottom of my lungs based on a black glob they saw on an X-ray.  A CAT scan revealed the black glob was my gall-bladder, which had gone completely south.  It had several stones, one near the size of a dime.  Another was headed for my pancreas.  So, on Thursday, 8/29, I had two gall bladder surgeries.  They tried to remove it arthroscopically, but they couldn’t.  So they put a 6 inch cut in my abdomen and took it out the old-fashioned way. 
 
Finally, I began on the path I’m on now.  After a few more days, on 9/4 in the afternoon, I was released.  Since then I’ve been just trying to walk a little further each day and get rest.  Today, I felt good enough to write this e-mail.  On Thursday, I expect the doctors will remove the 16 staples holding my gut together.  It should only get better from here.
 
Again, thanks to everyone for your concern and kind notes.  Knowing you are cared about makes getting better that much easier.  I’ll be back in the office making bad jokes and good coffee as soon as I can!
 
Sincerely,
Eric

Today, you get the joy of TWO posts!  And both were done at a time when a 9-5 worker should actually be awake!  This one undoubtedly reflects the spirit of randomness upon which this site was founded.

 

Over Christmas, my mother-in-law reacted with surprise when I ate a "Mounds" bar because she thought she was the only coconut connoisseur in the family (by some bizarre freak of nature, I actually like my mother-in-law – go figure!).  “I like everything,” I told her.  I then clarified with the list of foods that I don’t like.  Granted there may be a hundred others, but I’m only going on things I’ve eaten and truly know I don’t like.

 

Are ya ready?

 

Here it is…

 

I don’t like (presented in the colors of the foods themselves for extra effect):

  • Liver – Your body has a filter that pulls all the toxins out of the bloodstream.  It’s your liver (granted, it does lots of other stuff, too, though).  It’s the same for other mammals, too.  You wouldn’t pull the filter out of your water system and proceed to suck the slime out of it.  I am not willing to eat the filter.
  • Cottage Cheese – OK.  I have no reason not to eat this.  It just repulses me because of the curds.
  • Sesame Jellyfish Arms – I’m guessing very few of you will argue with this one.  I went to a traditional Chinese New Year celebration in New York City in 1988.  Everything was delectable.  I saw a plate full of what looked like sauerkraut, and – thinking it was seaweed – took a heaping pile of it.  Instead of hot, salty vegetable matter, it was cold, sesame flavored jellyfish arms, which had the texture of rubber bands.  I think it would have been better if that were what I was expecting, but the flavor-shock caused me to nearly gag.  I ate the whole pile to be polite, but I can’t even think about this without a hint of queasiness.  My apologies to the Chinese crowd, for whom this is a celebratory dish.
  • Octopus Sushi/Sashimi – Again with the cold, fishy flavored, rubber band stuff.

Well, that’s it.  The whole list comes down to four things.  Other stuff was brought up like haggis, tongue, and brains.  Can’t say I’d like them, but I don’t know because I haven’t tried.  I have issues with brains, though, as I’d be afraid of altering my own chemical balance.  Laughing sickness (see the second paragraph of this linked document) is one of the most rare illnesses in the world, affecting only cannibals who eat brains.  Cows have a lot of medical similarities to humans, so I’d avoid their brains too.

 
 
Buzzz
"Hmmm…. what’s that?"
Buuuzzzzzzzz
"Is it a helicopter from the hospital down the road?"
(peek out the window… sky is empty)
Buuuuuuuzzzzzzzzz
"An ultralight?  What the heck?  It’s been going on for MINUTES???"
 
BUUUUZZZZZZZZ!!!!!
"WHOA!!!  Holy COW!!" 
(camera!  where’s a CAMERA??  Oh, my phone has a camera!!!  C’mon… quick, before it’s gone!!!!)
 
"Thanks, Good Year, for the day’s entertainment!!"
(yeah… that’s the view out my office window!)

Well, it’s now the day after Christmas, and the ratings are in… the winning and losing gifts of the year are as follows. Click here for pictures.

 

Biggest Winner (group):

GameCube

We held back on this gift because we knew it would have overshadowed anything that followed.

Biggest Winner (individual):

  • Dad
    MP3 player for audio books.
  • Mom
    On time:  Seasons 1 & 2 of “Remington Steele” on DVD (she LOVES Pierce Brosnan)
    Delayed:  A new recliner.  The old one is her age (inherited from her dad), so it’s served its time.  Mom wants to pick this herself, though.
  • Steve
    Lego Tri-Wing Starfighter from Star Wars.
  • Tom
    Star Wars Lightsaber Battle Game video game.
  • Matthew
    Test Track slot-car track.

 

Biggest Loser:

  • Tom’s reaction to the absence of RoboRaptor.  Santa saw how much play RoboSapien got before his 15 minutes of fame ran out, so he chose wisely to skip this one.  This has come back to bite us, as someone told him we couldn’t do anything yesterday while the stores were closed, and he remembered they opened up again today.

Overall reaction:

We had a GREAT Christmas!  There were very few emotional overloads and everyone was very happy with the gifts they got.  It was great to have Grandma and Grandpa here to spend the holiday with us.

Hung like William
Wierd like Al
Enjoyable like Vogon Poetry
 
That’s about the best I can describe this.  It’s horribly out of tune and more an exercise in bravery (for putting it out there for others to hear) than in musical talent.
 
In the Media Player — "One Little Gift"… as performed by "Yours Truly" to the Karaoke CD from Chicken Little.
 
Enjoy… Have a great laugh at my expense.  That’s what I’m doing, isn’t it?  When you’re done wiping the tears from your eyes (whether they’re tears of laughter or pity), drop a comment to tell me how fast I should delete the song.
 
MERRY CHRISTMAS!

 

I am following up on Aynde’s survey with my own answers… don’t know why I find surveys so enticing. 

The Mother Of All Surveys – Part 3

What’s your screen saver?  A binary clock I made in VB6 after asking for one for Christmas from ThinkGeek.com. I was too impatient to wait until Christmas.
 
Do you like to drive fast?  (looks both ways for cops) Yeah. 
 
Chocolate or Vanilla?  Chocolate
 
Glasses stored bottoms up or bottoms down?  Bottoms Up.  Prevents "instant dust-water".
 
Favorite flower?  Roses.  Because it’s what I give my wife.
 
Piercings?  None, but  I have a 5-inch scar (see below)!
 
Tattoos?  Only for a short while after a box of Cracker Jack.
 
Do you type with your fingers on the right keys?  Yes, and at an absurdly fast rate and with horrid accuracy (back back back… fix fix fix). 
 
Pets?  None.  Something got the cat (owl? hawk?), and the dog got one of the kids (a knee-jerk nip but a bite nonetheless), so she is the favorite of her new owner.  We miss them both, but will not be taking in any new pets for the foreseeable future.
 
Holiday?  Halloween – I have a dark side, although in a light sense (i.e. – Tim Burton-esque). 

 

Thanks to Susie for giving the survey to Aynde!

… how about what darndest things PARENTS say?
 
I am an I.T. professional.  That means I get no days off…ever.  Not entirely true, but on weekends and vacation time, there’s always a chance a call will come in.
 
So, last weekend when my non-parent friend, Dan, was on-call, he ran into an issue with one of my systems ("The HECK!", you say, but yes, sometimes even my systems have trouble  ).  So, he called.  But alas, on a weekend, a house with three young boys tends to be nothing if not noisy.  So I began the child-aversion tactic.  My kids can sense an important phone call from a mile away, and began following me around jabbering at a mile a minute.  This turned quickly into a divide and conquer tactic, with one in each room, just waiting for me to venture in.
 
In my tour around the house, I was trying to gather the nature of my problem from Dan when I ran across something that stopped me in my tracks…
 
"WHO PUT THE REMOTE CONTROL IN THE ICED TEA???"
 
Suddenly the kids are silent.  Dan, however, is now laughing hysterically.  This alerts me to the humor of the situation, and I start laughing.  "Well," he says, "that takes all the sting out of that!  You have to stay in control of this situation!"  But I’m the dad.  The mom can retain a straight face in the midst of a situation like this, but not the dad.
 
Well, it turns out I was wrong to accuse.  Apparently aliens put the remote control in the drink (turns out it was water in the glass from which mom usually drinks iced tea).  We do have a real problem with aliens, but no exterminators we’ve found list extraterrestrial pests on their contracts.
 
Some of the other gems I’ve heard only after I let them fly from my mouth:
  • "OK, so what made you think you’d enjoy putting sand in your mouth?"
  • "Would you take a bath in the toilet??"
  • "Have you ever seen me throw toys at Mommy in bed??"
  • "Yes, Power Rangers poop.  EVERYBODY poops!  I’ve never done it on TV either!"
Someone mentioned to me that it looks like Hillary Clinton may be running in the 2008 presidential elections.  I said I would not vote for her. 
"What if she won?"
"I’d wait in the HUGE line at the Canadian visa office and seek a 4-year gig north of the border."
"Sexist, huh?  You wouldn’t put a woman in office?"
"No, I wouldn’t put Hillary in office."
"What if it came down to her and, say <pause to think>, Condoleezza Rice?  Would you have a problem with that?"
 
And I started thinking… let’s take Hillary out of the equation.  Who could you put against Dr. Rice, out of ANYONE who could run, that I would vote for?  My answer… no one that I can think of (OK, perhaps Colin Powell, but I think he’s not even considering the job, so that’s a moot point).
 
So, I’m going to make an early (VERY early) prediction and say that I’ll be backing
 
Dr. Condoleezza Rice
for President in 2008
 
should she choose to run.
 
She is strong, intelligent, trustworthy, and dignified (I’ll give Hillary the first two, but that won’t cut it).  And, so far, she’s "scandal-free"!  I think she would have the backbone to keep the country strong, and the diplomacy to do so peacefully.  So, are you with me on this one?  Any thoughts on whether she’s even interested?

 

 

 

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