Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Canine Anatomy

Ever since ChinchillaBoy was little, he loved animals, and wanted a dog.

We kept telling him we couldn't have one, so ChinchillaBoy used to harrass every dog owner he met on the street. ("This is a cute dog! Can I pet him? What's his name? What's his breed?", etc etc)

One day, when he was seven, he came home from a walk with his Grandpa, and asked me:

"Mom, what happens if the dog doesn't shit?"

"He dies," I said automatically. "Why do you ask?"

"Cause Grandpa and I just met this dog on the way home, he was SOOOO cute! And I talked to the owner. And the owner said that the dog does not shit. The dog wasn't dead, Mom."

"Heh heh. ChinchillaBoy, he probably meant that the dog does not shed. You know... lose hair."

"Are you sure Mom?" - ChinchillaBoy made me repeat it several times, and still he found it hard to believe me.

A few years passed.

"Hey ChinchillaBoy," I said once, "remember when you said that the dog didn't shit?"

"Yes, I totally believed that!"

"How come you didn't even wonder why an adult would say "shit" to a seven-year-old?"

ChinchillaBoy thought about it.

"Don't know... I just didn't."

We are a very dysfunctional family.

The Goldie has spoken at 5:16 PM

Monday, November 27, 2006

Aspie Digest - November 27, 2006

Go ahead and read the rest of the Digest! I busted my butt fixing the wacky characters in these posts. The link to the TOC is on the sidebar. Tons of helpful information there, if I do say so myself.

I haven't updated the Digest in a while, mainly because I didn't have much to say. It's time for an update, though. LilProgrammer started high school this year - well, not really, since he's in 8th grade, but technically, since grades 8 through 12 are located in the same building. Needless to say, I started worrying before he even left middle school. So far, it has been working out very well. Our district's gifted coordinator has been helping greatly. At the beginning of the school year, she suggested that I put together a description of LilProgrammer's situation and email it to her. I downloaded a copy of the standard letter from the OASIS site, and filled it out using LilProgrammer's information. She forwarded the letter to all his teachers, and they all tell me that it was a lot of help, so they were able to understand LilProgrammer better right from the start.

He still carries all his books around the school all day, except now there are fifty pounds of them. I was worried the kids would make fun of him or try to knock over his books, but so far no issues at all! One thing that happened two weeks after school started, LilProgrammer went to his gym class, and, as usual, left all his stuff somewhere in the corner in the gym. Another gym teacher came across his pile of books and decided that it had been sitting there abandoned for two weeks (I guess he assumed that since LilProgrammer had been leaving the pile in the same spot every day for two weeks in a row! Can't say I blame the teacher.) He took the books to the Lost and Found and tossed everything else into the garbage, including the book covers. All the school supplies that I'd just bought two weeks ago! Well the school had been very nice about it, and replaced those of the supplies that I hadn't already replaced myself. To the school, this served as an illustration of LilProgrammer's quirks, and proof that I wasn't just making this stuff up so he could get better grades or get away with more. As for LilProgrammer, after that incident, he started using his gym locker. He also made arrangements with his German teacher to store his stuff in her class whenever he had gym.

His grades have gone way up and he is on the Principal's List for the first marking period!! As for writing up an IEP for him, we haven't done it. The plan was to wait and see what his grades would look like. So far, the grades are good, better than any I've seen from him in over two years.

LilProgrammer is also in a social skills group at his school. They meet every day at lunch. I'm told that he's showing improvement.

On his spare time, LilProgrammer, true to his nickname, programs. He visits programming forums and blogs when he needs information. He has also been reading personal development sites and business-related sites. Here is a link he gave me: Negotiation: The Art Of Getting What You Want, by Michael Schatzki. I've been reading this book on and off, but I think it's really cool that LilProgrammer has already finished it, and that he has an interest in these things.

Another thing I need to mention is our dog. I strongly urge every parent with a kid on the spectrum to get a cuddly, friendly dog. LilProgrammer was wary of Sparky at first. I told him to feed the puppy out of his hand, and showed him how to pet the puppy. Sparky fell in love with LilProgrammer instantly. Being the smart dog that he is, he knows not to bother LilProgrammer the way he bugs everyone else in the family ("Arrrrf! Let's play! C'mon, let's play, let's play, here's a toy, let's play!") He just comes into LilProgrammer's room and sits there very quietly. LilProgrammer pets him and has tried carrying him around several times ("Why are you carrying the dog?" - "Cuz I have Aspergers!") He was amazed by the dog's evident need to socialize and be around people. That got LilProgrammer thinking. He's coming out of his room now and talking to us, sometimes for a very long time. I believe the dog has made him more social.

The only thing that worries us right now is...

Polyphasic Sleep

According to Wikipedia, polyphasic sleep (also known as the Da Vinci Sleep, not to be confused with the Da Vinci Code) is a sleep pattern intended to reduce sleep time to 2-5 hours daily, which is achieved by spreading out sleep into short naps of around 20-45 minutes throughout the day. From what I can tell, none of the people that attempted polyphasic sleep in the past were able to stick with it for longer than a few months, mostly because of the rigid sleep schedule that has to be followed to the minute and interferes with most people's work, family, and social life. LilProgrammer has decided that this will work for him, on account of him not having a social life. He started off in July on a 5-hour schedule, then he quit, then started on a 5-hour schedule again. The real problems started about a month ago when he decided to switch to a 3-hour schedule, that's three hours of sleep a day people!!! I have no idea how he does it. We told him that if his grades dropped, or if he started missing the bus in the mornings, then he could consider his polyphasic life over and would have to go back to sleeping twelve hours a day like the rest of the teenagers do. So far, all is good both in the grades and the bus department, though his teachers did complain that he looks "extremely tired".

LilProgrammer sets his alarm each time he takes a nap; he has also programmed his computer to beep at certain times during the day. Problem is, he never wakes up to turn the darn thing off. No worries though; the rest of the family has already learned to sleep through the beeping.

Last weekend, LilProgrammer really freaked us out by taking everything off his bed, including the mattress, and shoving everything into his closet. Reason? "When I sleep on my bed, I oversleep. I'm going to sleep at my desk from now on". We yelled and we threatened and we drew a gory picture of all possible dangers to LilProgrammer's health, but he wouldn't budge. This morning, I walked into his room to find him sleeping on the floor. This gives me hope. A week of that, and he'll realize he might as well put the mattress back again, since he's lying down anyway.

He keeps a log of what he does during the day. As far as we could find, no research had yet been done on effects of polyphasic sleep in kids and teens. Maybe LilProgrammer will be the first, publish his log, and get rich. I just hope his publication ends with something like: "That's when I realized that polyphasic sleep was not working and I needed to stop it immediately. And we all lived happily ever after."

The Goldie has spoken at 6:34 PM

Dear Sparky

Dear Sparky:

Thank you for telling our neighbors that, no matter how warm it is outside, midnight is not a good time and place for an all-out, way too loud Thanksgiving party on the patio. They seemed to be really impressed with your growling, and frankly, so am I! Nothing I ever said to them over the past five years has ever had such effect.

I also owe you for barking at Jehovah's witnesses when they came to our door bright and early Saturday morning. No matter how many times we've told these people to go away and not waste their time coming to our house, they always return. Well, I guess not anymore.

Since you have been so good at reading my deepest thoughts and conveying them to people in no uncertain terms, I hereby elevate your status in the pack. Your place is now right above LilProgrammer and ChinchillaBoy. Don't tell them; it'll break their hearts.

Preach it, brother! Arf arf arf!!!

The Goldie has spoken at 1:24 PM

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Merry what-what-what to you??

So how was everybody's Thanksgiving weekend? Ours was great! Did you know it's possible to actually get stuffed on Cornish hens?

I have finally managed to fix the annoying encoding bug on my blog, so you won't be seeing the wacky characters anymore. All I had to do was change one setting in the Formatting tab. Figures. I also added two of you to my blogroll - you know who you are, and thank you for reading me - and Jay gave me a nice little button for making the B4B top seven, which I am proud to display on my sidebar. (Although now that I think of it, I should have added a link to Jay's to the button, or something. Oh well, messed up again.)

I went to LilProgrammer's parent-teacher conference a few days ago, and learned many useful things. I believe a new issue of Aspie Digest is in order, so stay tuned, it'll be coming out soon.

It seems that December is finally here, and with it, the eternal question: do you wish people Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays? My vote is on the second, possibly because half the people I know celebrate Hanukkah, and who knows what else. We live in a pretty diverse area. Besides, many people like myself celebrate a religious holiday of their choice, plus the New Year. New Year has traditionally been a huge holiday in Russia, and my friends and I are trying our darnedest to keep it that way. So, it would be perfectly acceptable saying "Happy Holidays" to us, since we do indeed celebrate more than one holiday this month.

"But-but-but, Goldie," I can already hear, "this is a Christian country. We have been wishing everybody a Merry Christmas since the Puritans. People should either accept it or get out."

This is certainly true. I also consider it very true that this country is a large melting pot comprised almost exclusively of immigrants. People should either accept it or get out. Also, the native inhabitants of this country did not, traditionally, celebrate Christmas. Talk about adhering to the country's traditions.

On September 11, 2002, at my old job, we had a brief meeting in memory of the event. It was very touching; we all stood in a circle and held hands, while one of the admin assistants gave a passionate speech. All went very well until she said,

"Now let's pray. Our Father who art in Heaven..."

I am sure a lot of people in our department found that part very confusing. They used to call our department, jokingly, "the UN", as we had people from all over the world. Next to me stood a Hindu guy. As far as I remember, he did not join in. The meeting was followed by a lot of commotion and I believe the HR got involved, and we did not have any more meetings on September 11th. Which is a pity, because it was a really good idea, ruined by less than well-thought-out implementation.

Don't let it happen to our Holiday season.

Happy Holidays!!!

The Goldie has spoken at 5:37 PM

Friday, November 24, 2006

Get Out The Whine! I'll Bring The Cheese

For the first time in my ten years in America, I have to go to work on the day after Thanksgiving. Needless to say, I am not a happy camper.

If you are in the office today too, feel free to vent in the comments section! It's a whine and cheese party!!!

The Goldie has spoken at 8:48 AM

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Gobble, Gobble!

So once again, today is Thanksgiving. It is a very important holiday for the Goldie family. On this day, we the Goldies all get together to commemorate our arrival in America sometime in the last century. On a cold, wintry day, the Goldies flew in with only one fur coat on their backs, and that twenty-five years old. The new country was frigid and barren and filled with strange laws prohibiting four-year-olds to pee in the bushes at the playground.

Luckily for the Goldies, they were greeted by the friendly natives, who gave them useful presents, such as: Medicare, foodstamps, an entry-level job, ten-year-old GM cars, driver licenses, daycare vouchers, workplace romance, another entry-level job. The natives also provided good advice, a lot of it unsolicited and useless.

The Goldies' first Thanksgiving came and went unnoticed, except for the fact that they tried to cook a turkey and failed. In commemoration of this fact, the Goldies now cook various non-turkey foods for their Thanksgiving feast, such as: chicken, steak, cornish hens, shrimp, basically anything but turkey. This is all I have to tell you about Thanksgiving traditions in the Goldie family. Truth be told, there isn't a lot of these, though, I assure you, the Goldies tried. On several occasions, they invited their friends over for the day after Thanksgiving, so they could freely share leftovers and vent about last night's family gatherings. Once the Goldies even invited a coworker. This story is worth reposting, so repost it I will. Sadly, the Black Friday gatherings are a thing of the past, now that Goldie has to work on this day. And, speaking of Black Fridays, the Goldies never go shopping on this day, because they are generous like that. You see, they had stood in enough lines in their lives, back in the old country. But they realize there are millions of people in America who have never experienced a really long line, so the Goldies stay home and let their new compatriots use this opportunity. They already had their turn; it's your turn now. Go, consume, and freeze your asses off!

Below is a repost of my favorite Thanksgiving story. Its main character has since moved out of state, and no one knows where he went, because no one remembers, because frankly, no one gives a shit. Beware; he could be living next to you for all we know.


It all started with my coworker Dave. Don't worry, Dave doesn't work with me anymore, or live in our area, for that matter. Anyway, a few years ago, Dave surprised me one October afternoon when he stopped me in the hallway and asked what we were doing for Thanksgiving.

"Why, nothing," I told him.
"Cool! Can you guys come over to our house for dinner?"
"Sure, thanks for inviting us Dave."
"Ah, that's nothing," Dave offered. "My wife told me that, if I don"t bring any guests, then she's going to invite her mother over. I told her, I"d rather pick a bum off the street."

The guys sitting in cubicles next to ours poked their heads out, obviously interested in the conversation, but Dave offered no further confessions. I thanked him again, and assured that we"d come. My kids were thrilled to hear the news; they had met Dave"s kids before and got along with them pretty well.

Fast forward a month, it's the week before Thanksgiving and I decide to give old Dave a call, to make sure they're still hosting the dinner. Dave sounded really surprised.

"Um, er, you didn't call to confirm, so we decided you weren't coming, so we accepted an invitation from our friends. So, er, we won't be home Thanksgiving night. See, you didn't confirm, see. How could we know, right?"

I found myself feeling sorry for Dave. How could I set him up like that?

"That's okay, Dave, no problem at all, hey, listen, do you guys want to come over the day after Thanksgiving? You do? Cool, I'll make dinner. We'll see you then. Thanks, Dave."

So the day after Thanksgiving, I cooked dinner, and, before long, in came Dave, his wife, and their three children.

Allow me to take a break from my story right here to tell you that Dave is a devout Christian, very vocal about his faith in the workplace, and apparently very active at his church.

Back to my regularly scheduled post. Dave's family stayed till about midnight, and we actually had a lot of fun. His wife is a really cool woman. She stayed at home and homeschooled their children, and was doing a great job, because they were really great kids.

So, I chatted with Dave's wife while she helped me set the table for dinner. After dinner, the kids ran off to play, and the four of us decided to play euchre. So we're sitting there playing euchre, the Goldies against the Daves, and Dave is freakin cheating. He's winning, and getting all excited about it. We switch teams and play the guys against the girls, and what do you know, Dave's cheating again. It's like his whole life depends on this single euchre game. Whatever, we all just laugh it off.

Dave then proceeds to have a drinking contest with Mr. Goldie. Mr. Goldie, being a Russian guy, has years of experience and knows how to hold his liquor. But Dave is a big boy. So, an hour later, poor Mr. Goldie is passed out in the bedroom; Dave is parading around the house going, "I won! I won! I beat the Russian guy!"; and Dave's wife is visibly dying of embarrassment. Finally, she couldn't take it anymore, and told Dave it was time to go home. Which made perfect sense, as the Daves lived forty miles away from us, and it really was getting late.

So, Dave's family starts getting ready to leave, and does it as follows. Dave's wife is trying to get her three kids all dressed and ready to go. The kids, as it normally happens at parties, are all hyper and don't cooperate very well. Meanwhile, Dave is sitting in the car and honking the horn at three-minute intervals. If it was Mr. Goldie doing this, I swear I'd be a widow today, but Dave's wife is a real saint. She loads the kids in the car, gets in, and they leave.

As I found out when I saw them a month later, Dave drove all the way home that night. That's right, the man who had just beaten a Russian guy at a vodka-drinking contest, drove forty miles with his entire family in the car. His wife begged him to let her drive, but he wouldn't hear of it. That was by far the most memorable Thanksgiving we've ever had.

Inexplicably, Mr. Goldie refused to invite Dave to our house ever again. Men. Who can understand them?

The Goldie has spoken at 9:24 AM

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Hilarity On Elm Street 2

ChinchillaBoy's latest plan is to watch every one of the Nightmare On Elm Street movies. We saw the first one last week; we watched the second one yesterday.

I hadn't known that, but the second movie is considered the worst of the series. Because of that, it is definitely the kind of horror movie you would want to watch with your young, impressionable kids. The movie tries hard to be scary, and failes spectacularly. Because ChinchillaBoy and I both have a sick and twisted sense of humor, Freddy's Revenge had us in stitches. While IMDB has a list of "memorable quotes" from the movie, it seems like they left the best ones out:

Jesse: He is inside of me... He's going to try to take me again... HE OWNS ME.

(I was honestly worried for ChinchillaBoy after that last sentence, he was laughing so hard.)


Lisa, to Jesse: He's getting weaker now; he's losing his grip.


Oh, Freddy, you little pervert, you.

Oh, and when they rolled the credits? You'll never guess who played all the animals! Right there in the credits, the stunning revelation:

Animals ........ animal actors

Gee, and here I thought it had been Paris Hilton playing the rat... oh, wait, it's an old movie, she wasn't born yet... but the resemblance is uncanny.

We recommend Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge for all you comedy fans out there. Hope that you enjoy it as much as we did! We will continue watching the series, and will let you know if anything else catches our eye!

The Goldie has spoken at 8:44 PM

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Over time, a lot of people have asked me: "What is it with the way you raise your kids, Goldie? You spoil them too much. You expose them to too much. They shouldn't be watching this. They shouldn't be reading that. They're worldly. You robbed them of their innocence. What have you done?"

Of course, many others opine that my kids are cool and the kind of people they would want to be friends with. I guess tastes differ.

What can I say? I didn't start out by planning to rob my sweet babies of their innocence. It's just that, sometimes, they left me no choice. Consider this situation.

When we came to America, we of course always spoke Russian in our house. The kids didn't speak any English. This helped us shield them from the dreaded four-letter vocabulary for quite a few years. We made a point of swearing in Russian at home when we had to (hey, we've all dropped heavy objects on our feet, right?), so our children wouldn't learn any of the English words they didn't need to know. Then LilProgrammer made a new friend.

The new friend Bradley was a tall fourth-grader two years older than LilProgrammer. Rumor had it that Bradley had already been to a boot camp. For fun, he used to beat up on little kids. Needless to say, LilProgrammer was overwhelmed with respect and admiration.

It wasn't long before Bradley started teaching LilProgrammer new things.

"Mommy, where do babies come from?" ChinchillaBoy asked one day when he came home from preschool.

"I'll tell you," LilProgrammer cut in. What followed was a long lecture that left me standing with my mouth hanging open.

"Who taught you all this, LilProgrammer?" I finally asked.

"Why, you did!"

"No I didn't." I was a firm believer in teaching my children the basics of logical reasoning early on. "See, first of all, I don't remember doing that. And, secondly, even if I did, I wouldn't have used the word "hump" and the word "bone". It was Bradley, wasn't it?"

Not content to stop at "hump" and "bone", Bradley went on to expand LilProgrammer's vocabulary extensively over next two weeks. It took LilProgrammer another week to teach his five-year-old brother to use all the new words properly. Thus the battle with the swearing began. I yelled at them, I spanked them, I lectured them, but nothing helped. The kids swore like a pair of little sailors.

One day, about a year later, I got an idea. I would FINE them! LilProgrammer and ChinchillaBoy both received an allowance of three dollars a week each. I gathered the kids around and happily announced that, from that moment on, a swearword would result in a 25-cent fine. That meant each of them could only afford to cuss twelve times a week before going completely broke.

For a few weeks, the new system seemed to work. The kids were terrified of swearing, and I saved a lot of money because none of them was now getting more than a dollar a week. Then one day, both kids went into our basement to play. We have an enormous, fully finished basement that functions as a play room. Back in the day, it was full of board games, basketballs, and construction sets. These days, it is mainly occupied by the pool table, chinchilla cage, and copious amounts of chinchilla poop.

The kids seemed to be playing happily and quietly and I went about my housework, when suddenly LilProgrammer emerged out of the basement, holding a sheet of paper. On the paper was a spreadsheet that would a week later be a huge success in my mixed couples bowling league. People would literally stand in line to see it.

On top, in large letters, it said:


followed by:



et cetera, et cetera.

If I fined ChinchillaBoy based on that, I could retire.

LilProgrammer waited impatiently.

"So, Mom? Are you gonna fine him? Mom?"

It was a tough call. If I said no, I would essentially send my children a message that it is OK to swear. On the other hand, if I said yes, that would mean it isn't OK to swear, but it is OK to rat on your own brother.


"NO!!" I replied. "I do not fine based on hearsay. If I didn't hear it, he didn't say it."

"But MOM, it's not fair! He DID say it!"

"Hmmmm... you know what? I'm canceling the fines. The whole thing. It does more harm than it does good."

Now you know why my kids swear.

If you have any other questions, go ahead and ask.

The Goldie has spoken at 10:04 PM

Monday, November 13, 2006

Life Is A Highway

What I like about living with my family is that it's like a thriller, an action movie and a comedy all wrapped in one. You don't know what'll happen next, but you can guarantee it will be hilarious.

Last Friday, I come home from work and my parents inform me:

"LilProgrammer missed the bus home after school, so a police car dropped him off."

How nice, I think to myself. Cops cruising round the school, picking up kids that missed the bus. That's exceptional service. I think I like this high school.

Also, good to see that my traffic ticket money has been going to a good source.

An hour later, ChinchillaBoy arrives with more information.

"He walked halfway home, then a police car picked him up."

I go to LilProgrammer.

"Did you miss the bus today?"


"So a police car picked you up?"

"Yes, it did."

"Where did it pick you up?"

"Almost at the exit."

And here I thought I'd heard it all.

"Okay, LilProgrammer, can you backtrack a little? So he picked you up almost at the exit."

"Yes." He's slightly irritated with my density. What's there not to understand?

"How did you get to the almost-exit?"

"I took the same route the school bus takes on its way home. I got on the freeway and I was about to get off at the exit when a car picked me up."

"Wait a minute, you were walking on the freeway?"

"I was walking on the grass! They have grass over there!"

Oh and, by the way, he was also carrying fifty pounds of books and a huge wooden something he'd built in construction class. Oh the joy.

"When you got on, didn't you see a sign that says "No pedestrians allowed"?"


"So what did the police officer say?"

"You shouldn't be here" and "that's a lot of books".

"Want me to show you a shortcut from the high school to our house?"

"Nope. Why are you guys so excited anyway? So I walked on the grass on the freeway. So what? You guys worry too much."

That was how my weekend started.

It ended with ChinchillaBoy crank-calling his friend as Jesus.

I love this family.

The Goldie has spoken at 6:13 PM

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Planet Called Rover

This is for October's Blogging For Books contest. We are supposed to write about the weather. Since nothing significant has ever happened to me that was weather-related, I have to resort to fiction.

Many years ago, somewhere in the universe, there was a planet all covered with fur. Of course, it only would look like fur to us; to the planet's tiny inhabitants, it looked like giant pillars and tall trees. At first, the planet did not have a name, but one day, during their prayer meeting, the elders heard a booming voice from the sky. It said: "Rover, come". So, the elders concluded, Rover had to be the planet's real name, given to it by the invisible higher powers.

The planet traveled randomly in space, sometimes stopping, sometimes speeding up in leaps and jumps. The climate was fickle and unpredictable, often killing off scores of its hapless inhabitants. Every few generations, a Great Flood occurred that threatened to drown everyone on the face of the planet. Legend has it that, in the very first Great Flood, only one family survived. A short time before the flood, the family's patriarch was said to have heard a voice from the heavens, saying: "Who's gonna get a bath? Rover's gonna get a bath! Good doggy!" Even though he did not understand the meaning of these words, his intuition told him to start building an ark, immediately. He didn't have much time, and the ark came out only large enough to house himself, his wives and children. The rest of the planet perished in the terrible foamy flood that soon followed. Over time, the elders learned to predict when the flood was going to come, and were able to organize everyone ahead of time to get the arks built.

Other natural disasters characteristic of Rover included hurricanes, earthquakes, and strange clawy objects scratching the planet's surface at random. The people of Rover have learned quickly not to live in the Ball Mountains area, for it was deadly dangerous. Every year or two, a large, wet, pink object swept over the area, again and again, until everyone there was dead. Therefore, the Ball Mountains stood deserted, except for a youth or two climbing them once in a while on a dare.

With weather like this, it is no wonder that the people of Rover spent most of their lives trying to understand the nature of their planet and find ways of survival. Rover was famous for their natural sciences, with universities and research centers all over the planet, studying the ways of Rover. Just as abundantly, dozens of different religions flourished on the planet, praying to the powers that be for mercy, listening for the voice from heavens, and trying to decipher its messages, the most common of those being: "Sit", "Down", "Whozza good doggy?", and the ever-ominous "BAD DOG!!"

One unfortunate day, the people of Rover woke to find their planet surrounded by poisonous gas. They rejoiced at first, for it smelled sweetly and was pleasant to the senses. But, when their babies and children started dropping dead, they realized the sweet smell had been a horrible trap. Chaos ensued.

"People of Rover, this is all our fault. Every living being on the planet is to blame for this," pontificated the scientists. "Your suburban sprawl, your SUVs, your manufacturing plants, your dependency on natural resources, especially dog piss, have all brought us to this. We have long warned you that global warming was going to come and kill us all. Well it seems we had underestimated the danger. Because of your unchecked consumerism, global warming has turned to global poisoning!"

The priests were even more straightforward.

"People of Rover, you will surely die, for you have sinned. You ate too much, you partied too long, you coveted your neighbors' wives and children and mothers-in-law. Now the end of the world is here. You have angered the Power Above, and there is nothing you can do to turn things back. Repent and die."

Listening to all this intently was a lonely teenage boy, called Ilkir. Ilkir had been a bright kid since he was born. He always tried to find out how things worked, and always questioned everything. Even now, as everything around him was falling apart, his thoughts were spinning, trying to figure out, not even what had caused the poison gas, but how to save the people of his planet from dying off like a bunch of fleas.

To the deserted library Ilkir went; to the local university his path led. He read voraciously all the books on natural sciences that he could get his hands on. Having gathered the knowledge he needed, he then traveled to a nearby airplane plant and spent a week on the shop floor, learning how the planes were made. After that, he quietly packed a bookbag and disappeared. No one missed him, not even his family. Everyone was too busy shaking in terror and praying for a quick and painless death. Another month went by.

By then, there were hardly any people left on Rover. Dead bodies were laying in the streets, as the living had no energy to bury them, nor did they see a point. Why bother, when soon all will die? The few survivors have taken to gathering at a local Temple Of The Voice From Above and pray daily, so they could at least die with a clear conscience. It was during one of their prayer meetings that the door flew open and a tall figure walked in.

He was covered in dirt and leaves. His clothes were tattered and ripped. On his face, there was a moustache and beard where no facial hair had been before. But his eyes shone with a light of a true discovery.

"Ilkir!" cried an elder, recognizing the boy. "We thought you were dead! Where have you been?"

"I bring great news," Ilkir rasped, brushing a lock of dirty hair from his forehead. "I know how to save us all. Gather round; I will need your help. Who here knows how to work the airplane plant?"

Until morning, the men (for only one woman had survived the deadly gas, and she was at her house, hiding from the poison) sat around the bonfire in front of the old temple, listening to Ilkir's story.

"I read the old manuscripts. I looked at cave paintings. I traveled far and wide," the boy told them. " People of Rover, take heart - we are not alone. There are millions of planets like ours in the Universe - most of them in the San Francisco galaxy. Some are small, some are enormous; some have ample coverage, some short coverage, some have no coverage at all. Some travel much and some stay in the same place. Some travel in cold galaxies and some in hot. Many are inhabited, but many others are not. We can pick any one, move there, and start over.

"To get there, we will need a spaceship large enough to hold us all and the supplies for the travel. I have made all the blueprints we will need, and made a list of parts that are needed to build the ship. We need all hands at the plant. Once we're done, we will fly the spaceship to the takeoff point, for the valleys of our planet are not suitable for takeoff. We will depart from the highest point of the Ball Mountains."

A murmur went through the crowd, for the Ball Mountains were a haunted and dangerous place and no one had ventured near it in years. But, to save their people, they finally decided they were willing to take even that risk.

Long and hard did the people of Rover toil at the airplane plant, never stopping even to eat, sleep or pass water - they did it all without ever leaving their work. Finally, the spaceship was built and moved to the Ball Mountains as agreed before. Everyone got on board. Captain Ilkir started the countdown.

"Ten, nine, eight..."

Suddenly, they heard a thunder that would have made blood freeze in their veins, if they had veins or blood.

A horrible pink thing, shaped like a shovel but much bigger, was moving towards them. It glistened wetly in the electric light.

One of the elders shrieked.

"We're all going to die!"

"... seven... aw, screw it, two, one, liftoff!" - and Ilkir quickly put the ship into gear. They got out just in time. The dog Rover continued to lick his balls, oblivious to what had just happened. The new flea medication was definitely working; Rover was not itching anymore. He stretched and wagged his tail contentedly.

For many months, captain Ilkir's ship roamed the vast Universe. They landed on several planets. Some were already inhabited, and they had to flee before the natives destroyed the invaders. Others were too small, or moved in space too fast for their liking. Finally, they found a big shaggy planet called Rocky. They settled there, and unanimously elected Ilkir as their new planet's leader. He married a girl he had met on one of the planets they'd been to, and everyone lived happily ever after.

And this is how dogs get fleas. So, next time you hear that your pet has got them, please be more tolerant. Instead of thinking what a pain in the ass it is, and how much it will cost you to get the fleas out, think of the brave boy Ilkir and of his people who only wanted to preserve their race and live in peace.

The Goldie has spoken at 2:52 PM

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Mama Bear Gone Wild

Yesterday I took ChinchillaBoy to basketball tryouts. My Mom also came along to watch.
After two hours, the tryouts were over. ChinchillaBoy and his best friend came running to us.

"We're on the same team! Did you see? Did you see? I got into a fight!"

"No I didn't, what happened?"

"The other guy started it", ChinchillaBoy's friend weighed in. Then they both started talking at once and I couldn't understand a word. Suddenly, I felt someone looking at me. I look up and see a kid in glasses, accompanied by his mom.

"Your son said very mean things to my son," the other mom informed me. "That wasn't nice."

And she continued to just stand there, staring. Clearly something was expected of me.

"Say sorry", I offered to ChinchillaBoy.

He did. The mom and the kid left.

I got up on my feet, rolled my eyes, and delivered a speech that I will save for later. Then I said to the boys,

"Okay, now I want to know how it really happened."

It was somewhat of a reverse engineering type of story. Somehow they told it all backwards.

"We were fighting and fighting. He fights like a girl. He scratches" (snorts of laughter from both boys.)

"He started it, though. He kicked ChinchillaBoy in the leg, like this."

"And then I hit him back. I called him four-eyes, and then he hit me."

"Wait a minute," I interrupted. "You called that kid four-eyes?"

"Yes, but not until he called ChinchillaBoy fat," the best friend informed me.

Oh, is that how it was? Well, guess what, if you call my kid fat, then tough shit – it's on, buddy!

"Oh, okay then," I say. "I guess you still shouldn't have called him four-eyes, but I guess it's okay. But why did you guys even start?"

"He started it," they both say together.

"He was being annoying. I asked him to stop but he just kept being annoying. And, and, he asked me: "Am I being annoying?" And I said, "Yes". And he was like, "Yay!"

We say good-bye to the best friend and get in the car. Time for a motherly lecture.

"Listen, ChinchillaBoy, you should have still ignored that kid. Take me, for example. That mom? She pissed me off something fierce. But did I get into a fight with her? No! I nodded and smiled and told you to say sorry."

I think for a minute about what I just said.

"Then again, with guys, it may be different. I mean, with kids. I mean, with guy kids."

"Those are called boys, Mom."

"Oh yeah, that's the word - boys. Thanks, ChinchillaBoy."

Now allow me to use my blog space to say a few choice words about the mother that came to me.

It just kills me when the parents try to fight their kids' fights for them. It kills me even more when a parent tries to pick a fight with another parent on the sole basis that their kids didn't get along.

Guess what? Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, the kids will work things out on their own. There is no need to come to their rescue like some sort of suburban female Superman in mom jeans. I will tell you more - ninety-nine times out of a hundred, the kids will come up with just the right way to resolve their conflict, while the parents, if they step in, will mess it up pathetically, kind of like John Kerry messed up that speech of his. You should really trust your kids more.

I have two boys that were born two and a half years apart. That sure helped me put things in perspective. If, each time they got into an argument, I had made a federal case of it, I would have had to hire a lawyer just to keep things running smoothly in my own house. Unless it was really blatantly obvious, I did not waste my time trying to find out whose fault it was and who had started it. What I did, though, was tell them both to stop fighting. They get along great now.

Unless my kids are being raped, bones are being broken, or they are being attacked by a mob, I trust them to be able to resolve their conflicts on their own. Correction, I trust ChinchillaBoy to be able to do that. I will probably interfere sooner if LilProgrammer is involved, as he has Aspergers and his social skills are next to nonexistent. That said, I haven't had to interfere for any of them this far.

People should get their own lives, and stop trying to live vicariously through their kids. To those that feel they do not have enough conflict in their lives and need to leech off their children's, I strongly recommend getting an office job.

The Goldie has spoken at 7:56 PM

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Town Hall

At my new work, we had one of those town hall meetings yesterday. You know the ones when they get the whole company in one auditorium, then show slides and give motivational speeches for several hours? I'm not going to write about yesterday's, though, for I have an irrational fear of being dooced. Let me just say the food was good.

It did however, bring back the memories of my old job, which I guess I am now allowed to write about.

I hated town hall meetings. I used to bring a large binder with a notepad inside, and sit in the back. I'd sit through the whole meeting with my trusty binder open, pretending to take notes, chewing on my pen periodically as if in deep thought about the company's present and future. Inside my binder was a magazine. "Wired" works well. Or, my personal favorite, "Fantasy & SciFi".

Other times, I pretended to get paged out of the meeting. Yet other times, I actually did get paged out of the meeting. I never forgot to say thank you to the thoughtful user who had rescued me from the town hall by paging me with a high priority issue.

"But it isn't high priority. It can wait", my user would protest.

"Oh no, it can't! It is far too important", and I would leave the town hall, run to the office and work on the user's problem while simultaneously reading your guys' blogs.

In my six years at the old job, I've been through three or four CEOs. One of them comes to mind when I think of the whole town hall business. He had them down to an art. This CEO had come to our LARGE corporation from another, VERY LARGE corporation, which I cannot name to you, except that its name starts with "Gen" and ends with "lectric". Apparently the VERY LARGE corporation had a very different way of conducting town hall meetings.

At his first town hall, the man ruined my scheduled Fantasy & SciFi reading by saying,

"Now everyone who's sitting in the back three rows, move to the front".

I forgave the CEO after he started feeding us continental breakfasts at our next gathering. Our meetings, however, got wilder and wilder.

At one of them, the nifty CEO had our entire upper management do a Star Wars skit, with Darth Vader representing our chief competitor, and Luke Skywalker, of course, representing us. Wake me up it did. We were all told to stand up and do a special, Star Wars-inspired, company cheer. It contained our company's name and the words "Oi, oi, oi!", and we had to repeat it until we got it right.

At the last town hall meeting I went to, I got paged about a user having problems. Closing my Fantasy & SciFi, I got up, walked into the hallway, and quietly called the user, explaining that I wasn't at my desk, but would soon be on my way. I don't remember why I walked back into the meeting, but, when I did, everyone was standing up, their right hand on their heart. The CEO led the pledge.

"I pledge allegiance to..."

Followed by our company name.

When it was over, I had trouble getting out of the parking lot, so many people had decided to sneak out because they'd had enough.

I stopped going to town hall meetings after that. By the time the hyper-creative CEO was let go, I had attained enough clout that I was able to say, "Sorry guys, seems like I cannot make it to the town hall again. Too much work."

It'll take me another five years to get back to that point in my new job.

Meantime, I am going to relax and enjoy the free grub.

The Goldie has spoken at 8:33 PM

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Do Unto Others

I know you are all wondering by now what was in ChinchillaBoy's Halloween loot. I have looked through it yesterday and here is the approximate breakdown:

Milky Ways - 30
Almond Joys - 2
Tootsie Rolls - 50
Reese's Cups - 40
Three Musketeers -20
Religious Tracts -2

ChinchillaBoy says that this only happens at one house in that area. They do not give candy or toothbrushes or dried fruits or anything else - just the tracts.

Being the kind-hearted boy that he is, next year ChinchillaBoy wants to give these good people something back. We got into a bit of an argument over what exactly it is going to be.

ChinchillaBoy suggested Satanist booklets, but I said, No way. Too far out there.

I suggested Orthodox booklets, but he said, No way. Too boring.

So far, we've come to a solution that we both seem to agree with. Here's the plan. I rip out a bunch of Playboy centerfolds, fold them nicely and give them to ChinchillaBoy and his friends, who in turn hand them to the tract-giving family.

Of course, this plan is not without its flaws. Twelve-year-old boys and Playboy centerfolds are not exactly a good combination. No worries, we still have 363 days to come up with something better. If you have any ideas, feel free to share!

The Goldie has spoken at 7:57 PM

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