• 23 Sep 2008 /  Doom, Rants, Work

    So this is a little story that (mostly) happened to me a while ago. There’s an update today, but since I never posted the original story here, here it is, skip to the bottom if you must:

    The Toaster Revolt of 1997

    So, I’m getting a bagel this morning. Little did I know I was about to witness the worker’s revolt of 97.

    I get my nice sesame bagel, head over to the bagel biter, slice it in half and and turn to go to the toaster. This is one of those commercial conveyer-belt toasters. Anyway, there are about 10 people around the toaster, this 1 woman, whom I’ll refer to as Norma Rae, is pontificating to the cafeteria guy, (we’ll call him Jambo), on how much of her precious break time is being wasted dealing with this toaster. People are putting their bagels, bread, muffins, puppies, etc into the toaster, staring at it for a minute and taking their item out, looking at it and shaking their heads. It seems the toaster isn’t so much as toasting as it is warming.

    Ok, so normal person would say, “Oh, darn” and run the bread product through again until the desired toastedness is achieved, but not your average corporate citizen, no! The folks are standing around, ganging up on the poor cafeteria guy, “What’s wrong with this thing?, “Why aren’t there 2 toasters?”, “Why do my shorts keep riding up?”. Poor Jambo is just trying to get to the knob to turn the thing up a little, but Norma won’t let him get by. She continues her assault on defenseless Jambo while one of her compatriots, whom I’ll call Brain Donor, is repeatedly PRESSING the temperature adjustment KNOB. So Norma is quizzing Jambo on why there is only 1 toaster, Jambo is mounting his only defense, “I’m just a contractor, the corporation supplies the equipment”, Donor is continuing to press the knob, wondering why it is having little effect.

    Meanwhile, another party, whom I will name MacGyver, swoops in to retrieve his bagel. Mac discovers that his bagel is being blocked in the output tray by another. Being the resourceful guy that he is, MacGyver grabs the tongs, removes the offending bagel, placing it on a plate to the side of the toaster, and takes his own bagel, slipping away stealthily. Well, Mac had no idea what he had done. You see, this bagel belonged to Norma, she had finally disengaged from Jambo’s jugular to get her tasty bagel. Much to her horror, someone…or something had removed her bagel from the toaster and placed it on….a plate! “Did someone take this out?”, Norma demanded. “Who did this, did it fall?” “Is this my bagel? Who’s is this? Mine was a sesame? Is this mine? Who took this out?” My mind was reeling from the assault. It was all I could do to weakly mutter “that’s mine” when Norma pointed at my bagel, which was on its second trip through the toaster.

    Well, I got out of there just as Norma was looking for something to make protest signs with and Donor was wondering what the pretty red things inside the toaster tasted like. I heard a distorted scream of pain as I left the cafeteria.

    Cut to this morning. I’m wandering around the same cafeteria, with the same (or reasonably the same) toaster. There’s a nicely printed and laminated sign hung next to the toaster. This sign reads:

    “Please do not butter item before placing in toaster”



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  • 22 May 2008 /  Parenting, Tech, Work

    National Engineer’s Week is this week and I was asked to do a presentation on software engineering to about 40 local middle school students. I was a bit unsure how to approach this as it’s not the audience I’m used to dealing with. I’ve presented to rooms full of executives before, but I was more nervous about this. I’ll leave the obvious jokes about maturity levels as an exercise for the reader.

    Now that it’s over, I’d say it went very well (thanks to advice from my lovely wife). I was last on the agenda, so the kids were a bit drained and antsy, but I managed to keep them occupied and interested. I had an activity planned in which some volunteers represented parts of a very simple program, a bubble sort. I had them physically act out the operation of the algorithm and when it was completed they could see the results (the volunteers were now in alphabetical order). They were actually enthusiastic about participating in this little exercise, which was probably my biggest fear. It would have gone much differently if I had to drag kids up, or bribe them with the M&Ms that a certain someone suggested I bring. It was inspiring to see some of the kids watch the process, expressing confusion as it wasn’t immediately obvious what was happening, but then as it progressed, they got what was going on. I think they really enjoyed it.

    The blatant pandering of using a screenshot of Super Mario Galaxy and one of the Google map to their school actually resulted in cheers. So I’ll keep that in the toolbox for the future.

    One thing that didn’t work was sarcasm. If you know me, you know how integral that is to my daily life and the kids mostly just didn’t get it. I guess I should have seen that up front, but at least some of the teachers got some chuckles out of it.

    Overall, I really enjoyed the experience, the kids asked a lot of good questions, though several were about salary. I hope they all got something from it.

    Here’s my presentation, if you’d like to see it.


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  • 22 Apr 2008 /  Work

    Just in case you haven’t heard. I started a new job recently. Still with the same company, just getting back to open-source software development. Specifically working on the SBLIM project. I feel that this is a good move for me as I’m pretty comfortable in that area. I’m certainly a bit rusty in the code-writing department, but it’s like riding a bike…..right?

    Oh god, please tell me it’s like riding a bike.



  • 11 May 2007 /  Rants

    I recently spotted this maintenance log attached to a large air handler in a lab:

    • 3/10/06-Change filter & belts, grease bearings
    • 8/17/06-Replace worn sheave
    • 8/23/06-Install correct sheave & new motor

    I guess someone made a bit of a mistake.


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